AGCC Sun. a.m. 5/6/2001
#13 (Book of Revelation Series)
TEXT: Rev. 16:1-18:24
INTRO:The history of evil is long and terrible one. One does not have to go back too far in history to witness the terrible price tag of evil on the human race. Evil does not come from animals or technology, it comes from the sinful heart.
Unfortunately, the days of evil are not over, and in fact they will be with us until the end of time. Though we become more sophisticated technologically, though our wealth continues to grow ... evil is also spreading its influence. We are living in times when it is NOT just the religious people saying we need a spiritual renewal, listen to the voices from Hollywood!
ILLUS:"We're in need of a spiritual revival." -- Norman Lear TV producer and founder of People for the American Way. Leadership, Vol. 15, no. 4.
ILLUS:Cynicism has gone too far. We are becoming what the history books tell us late Rome was like: mired in decadent self-absorption and lacking virtue. -- Movie director Oliver Stone. Leadership, Vol. 16, no. 4.
There has been a gradual numbing in our culture toward evil, a process seen in history just before an onslaught of horrible deeds, indeed, no one becomes suddenly evil over night, it is usually a gradual process.
ILLUS:Once we assuage our conscience by calling something a "necessary evil," it begins to look more and more necessary and less and less evil. -- Sydney J. Harris, Leadership, Vol. 1, no. 3.
PROP. SENT: So often it appears that evil flourishes and escapes punishment while good so often goes unrewarded ... but this will not always be the case. Indeed, God is very much concerned about evil in this world and it will one day be dealt with completely, so don't lose hope or encouragement, God is in control!
I. DAY OF CLEAR RESPONSE Rev. 16:1-21
A. Fair Response 16:1-14,16-21
1. John now describes the final set of 7 judgments during the Tribulation.
a. These final judgment bowls will fully touch the world, not partial as earlier ones appeared to be.
b. Evil will not escape punishment.
c. God's justice will be complete and fair.
2. This is why as Christians we don't lose heart NOW when we see evil flourish without punishment ... we know that God will balance the scales in time.
a. If this were not so it would be a maddening thing to see that evil has so often gotten away with so many atrocities ... but we know that this won't continue to be true.
b. This is what keeps us plugging away doing good, we know that our labors WON'T be in vain.
3. So often the world worries about the wrong stuff ... for many years we worried about new and greater weapons ... and while this is surely a concern, the real issue should be the heart of men who would use them!
ILLUS:I do not fear the explosive power of the atom bomb. What I fear is the explosive power of evil in the human heart. -- Albert Einstein (1879-1955) - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 3376.
4. John's vision clearly shows a time when God will completely deal with evil ... when sin and evil will truly be punished fairly!
a. You can escape human justice ... but not heavenly justice!
b. Nothing escapes God's notice.
5. IRONICALLY, when God punishes evil and evil doers they DO NOT REPENT!
a. Notice in 16:9,11,21 -- the wicked REFUSE to repent and they continue to curse God!
b. The hardness of the human heart can be remarkable!
B. Faithful Response 16:15
1. In the midst of evil's punishment God encourages faithfulness!
a. Notice that John states that Jesus Christ is "COMING LIKE A THIEF"
b. It will be swift and unexpected by the wicked.
c. Christ will not allow evil to rule this planet forever.
2. No one anticipates the coming of a thief, if they did they would be ready for them! Will you be ready when Christ comes? His coming is only like a thief to those NOT ready!
a. Notice Jesus' words here: "Blessed is he who stays awake (alert) and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed."
b. The clothes of the believer are the robes of Christ's righteousness, don't ever take them off!
c. To be found naked would be a shame ... and a terrible loss.
3. We don't have to be alarmed at evil ... concerned yes, alarmed no ... because we know the final score!
ILLUS:Lyle Arakaki shares this insight: In Hawaii, because of the time difference with the continental U.S., the NFL Monday Night Football game is played in mid-afternoon, so the local TV station delays its telecast until 6:30 in the evening. When my favorite team plays, I'm too excited to wait for television, so I'll listen to the game on the radio, which broadcasts it live. Then, because they're my favorite team, I'll watch the game on television, too.
If I know my team has won the game, it influences how I watch it on television. If my team fumbles the ball or throws an interception, it's not a problem. I think, That's bad, but it's okay. In the end, we'll win! "In this world you will have trouble," said Jesus. "But take heart! I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). When going through trouble, knowing the final outcome makes all the difference. -- Fresh Illustrations for Preaching & Teaching (Baker), from the editors of Leadership.
a. We need to do all we can to thwart evil, and we don't have to be overcome by its existence.
b. We are certain of two things: Evil will increase as the end of time approaches, and God will win and overcome all evil ... we win!
4. Satan is no match for God!
II. DECEPTION OF CORRUPT RELIGION 17:1-18
A. Fiendish Relationship! 17:1-16
1. John now reveals that the beast (antichrist) is in cohorts with a "prostitute" ... who is this prostitute?
a. It is the one world religion that will emerge.
b. It will be the marriage of religion and politics, producing a terrible combination of powerful corruption.
c. This corrupt religious system covers the whole planet .. the meaning of the phrase, "who sits on many waters" ... "waters" being a reference to humanity or nations ... the "sea of humanity."
2. Politics and Religion never mix well!
ILLUS:A little bit of hell spilled over on the world because two people believed in a false prophet. In his brilliant book, Nicholas and Alexandra, Robert K. Massie tells how the czar and empress of Russia were misled by a miracle and thus brought their great empire down to dust.
After many years of anxious waiting for an heir to the Russian throne, Czar Nicholas II and his German wife, Alexandra, were blessed with a son. However, their hopes for the future were cruelly crushed six weeks later when doctors discovered the infant had hemophilia, an incurable blood disease that could kill at any moment. All of his short life was to be lived in the shadow of terror, with death stalking every footstep. This tragedy introduced into the royal family one of the most evil men who ever lived.
Several times the youngster slipped close to death. Seeing him writhe in excruciating pain, his tormented parents would beg doctors to do something, but they were helpless. In those moments they turned to Gregory Rasputin, a religious mystic of questionable credentials, later known as the mad monk of Russia. Invariably, he would pray for the boy and there would be a marked improvement. Even today doctors are at a loss to explain how these healings took place, but history testifies to them. Always, Rasputin would warn the parents the boy would only live as long as they listened to him.
Rasputin's power over the royal family became so great he could, with a word, obtain the appointment or dismissal of any government official. He had men appointed or dismissed on the basis of their attitudes toward him rather than their abilities. Consequently, the whole Russian government reeled under the unwise counsel of this evil man. Seeds of revolution were planted and watered with discontent. It erupted into the murder of the royal family, internal war, and the Communist takeover.
Alexander Kerensky, a key government figure during those trying times, later reflected, "Without Rasputin, there could have been no Lenin!" -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 307.
a. The tribulation period will NOT be without lots of religion, but it will be a false religion!
b. It will be religion USED to control people, to give power to rulers.
c. Christ gives power to individuals to change their hearts, He never used His power on earth to control the nation of Rome, in fact, Jesus refused to make His teachings political ... He saved tax collectors, Pharisees, prostitutes, demon possessed individuals, the lame, the dumb, zealots, Roman soldiers, fishermen, farmers, Jews, Gentiles, Greeks, Romans, women, children, men, etc.
d. Jesus wasn't interested in political power, He was interested in God's power to change the heart and life.
3. The antichrist will use religion to support his goals ... he will no doubt appear quite religious, it will be a necessary but uncomfortable marriage for him to accomplish his tasks ... and once he has done so and has complete power he will discard this one world religion and destroy it! (see 17:16 "The beast and the ten horns you saw will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire." )
a. Never has politicizing religion been positive .. even our relatively recent history has shown this, Hitler mixed his political goals by wedding them to religious principles.
ILLUS:We who live beneath a sky still streaked with the smoke of crematoria, have paid a high price to find out that evil is really evil. -- François Mauriac (1885-1970) - Edythe Draper, Draper's Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). Entry 3416.
b. True religion is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, not a political relationship.
4. It is clear that antichrist will effectively use religion to move the masses to follow him and his agenda. This false Church will be a counterfeit Christianity.
a. Complete with great miracles.
b. And the expectation of complete commitment.
B. Final Reality 17:17,18
1. God is still in control, even with a false world wide religion in place.
a. God's purposes will not be destroyed by Satan or man's religious efforts.
b. Though this last day religious system will corrupt the world, it will lose in the end.
2. While it is clear that religion will play a large role in the support of the antichrist, it will fail to change the world positively!
3. Though successful for a time, all religions will fail ... only the rule of Christ will continue into eternity!
ILLUS:When the army of Julian the Apostate was on the march to Persia some of the soldiers got hold of a Christian believer to torment and torture him in brutal sport. After they wearied of it, they looked into his eyes and said to their helpless victim, with infinite scorn in their voices, "Where now is your carpenter God?" The prisoner looked up through pain, blood, and agony to say, "Where now is my carpenter God? He is building a coffin for your emperor." -- R. Geoffrey Brown, "Look! A Great White Horse!" Preaching Today, Tape No. 111.
III. DAY OF CLEAR REVELATION 18:1-24
A. Full Retribution 18:1-20
1. Finally the day of collapse will come for evil ... Satan will lose -- he is even now a loser!
a. There will be a total collapse of Satan's kingdom.
b. This is the meaning here: "Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! She has become a home for demons and a haunt for every evil spirit, a haunt for every unclean and detestable bird."
c. Evil's apparent victory ends ... in a total collapse.
2. Full judgment will come upon all evil and evil doers ... they will not escape, God does not forget evil or those who are evil doers and He will bring judgment.
a. Notice in 18:5 "for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes."
b. All those who have conquered nations will see their powers fail, their rule ended, only the kingdom of God will last!
ILLUS:Alexander, Caesar, and Hannibal conquered the world but they had no friends ... Jesus founded his empire upon love, and at this hour millions would die for him ... He has won the hearts of men, a task a conqueror cannot do. -- Napoleon Bonaparte, Leadership, Vol. 7, no. 1.
3. The collapse of Satan's kingdom will be so complete that it will astonish the world ... those whose gods were gold and silver will simply mourn their financial losses, yet the greatest loss will be their souls!
a. The phrase used here: "In one hour your doom has come!" and "In one hour she has been brought to ruin!" clearly indicate the quickness in which the end will come.
b. Evil's reign will be short lived in the annals of eternity.
B. Finality Remarkable! 18:21-24
1. The suddenness of the end is shown by the image John uses here of a millstone being suddenly thrust into the sea ... indicating a quick end!
a. All normal activities will cease.
b. Evil thought it could prosper forever, that God would not win ... but quickly and totally evil comes to an end, and with it all the prosperity of the wicked.
2. We must not envy those who get rich by deceit, there WILL BE a final judgment that will end their prosperity ... it will be the day of victory for the righteous!
ILLUS:The story is told of a farmer in a Midwestern state who had a strong disdain for "religious" things. As he plowed his field on Sunday morning, he would shake his fist at the church people who passed by on their way to worship.
October came and the farmer had his finest crop ever--the best in the entire county. When the harvest was complete, he placed an advertisement in the local paper which belittled the Christians for their faith in God. Near the end of his diatribe he wrote, "Faith in God must not mean much if someone like me can prosper."
The response from the Christians in the community was quiet and polite. In the next edition of the town paper, a small ad appeared. ... It read simply, "God doesn't always settle His accounts in October." -- William E. Brown in Making Sense of Your Faith. Christianity Today, Vol. 33, no. 11.
3. The day of evil's rule is coming to an end, what a glorious day it will be for the saints, and what a horrible day it will be for sinners!
a. Where will you be on that day?
b. Why not be on the winning side NOW?
CONCLUSION: Though we often feel frustrated that evil sometimes goes unpunished and good seems unrewarded, there is coming a day when evil will receive its just desserts and the righteous will rejoice and be rewarded. Don't lose heart in your service for God, He will not let evil triumph or escape judgment. Living for God is NOT in vain! In Christ you are in on the winning side ... stand firm in faith!