AGCC Sun. a.m. 2/25/2001
#7 (Book of Revelation Series)
TEXT: Rev. 8:1-9:21
INTRO:This part of the book of Revelation marks one of the darkest moments in time. It is a picture of the great tribulation, a period of time when the consequences of sin will become all too real.
It would be a foolish mistake for modern man to believe that there are no consequences for sin. God has not abandoned judgment on sin, He has only postponed it. Though it appears for the moment that sinners get away with sin and face few consequences, this will not always be so.
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.
Why grace now? Rom 2:4 "Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness leads you toward repentance?" Paul makes it clear that this period of grace is given so that we will repent of our sins and avoid the judgment that is coming.
BUT … to avoid God's grace now means to face God's wrath later!
PROP. SENT: The Bible teaches us clearly that today we live in a period of great grace, but that there will be a day of God's wrath poured out on the ungodly.
I. COMMITMENT OF FAITH 8:1-5
A. Concern 8:1
1. The scene opens up in the middle of the tribulation period, the time of "GREAT" tribulation.
a. As the scene on earth shifts toward a time of unprecedented evil all attention is drawn toward God's judgments which are about to fall on unrepentant mankind.
b. So dramatic is this moment that John says "there was silence in heaven for about half an hour."
c. Imagine everything coming to a stop, especially in Heaven!
2. This dramatic pause obviously indicates something of such stark reality that everything in the universe stops for the moment … this reflects dramatic concern!
a. This 7th seal being opened introduces an new surge of activity on Earth, God's judgments on evil begin in rapid succession.
b. This 7th seal begins the 7 trumpets of judgment.
3. So often today people don't take sin seriously because they don't see the fruit or consequences of their sinful actions … but there will be a time when such consequences will be forthcoming.
a. Because God is patient and long suffering now there are those who don't think judgment is real, or that God is real.
b. Some now live in sin and yet see their lives prosper, they appear blessed and think that sin is not a serious thing … but the days of grace we live in will not erase the judgment of sin, it may just come later.
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.
B. Consistent 8:2-5
1. The prayers of the saints mentioned here no doubt included those prayers that were cries to God for justice.
a. It is hard sometimes as Christians to witness evil that appears to go unpunished, while often those who walk consistently with God face constant struggles.
b. This is an age old conflict … why the righteous often suffer and the unrighteous prosper.
c. There is a natural cry in our heart and in our prayers for God to balance the scales of justice.
d. Indeed, such cries of the righteous have NOT BEEN FORGOTTEN by God, those prayers have not failed, it just hasn't been the right time yet.
2. In spite of the seeming injustice of so much of life, the godly do not forsake the Lord under any circumstances … and the prayers mentioned here are the prayers of the saints who have walked consistently with the Lord.
a. They may have cried out to God in their struggle to understand, but they had not abandoned God in the midst of what appeared to be injustice.
b. Our walk with God today should not be based on how fair things appear in the here and now.
c. We must be confident that God will take care of all injustices in time.
3. The call of the believer is to walk consistently even in the midst of injustice, knowing that justice will be answered at another time.
ILLUS:When local magistrates sentenced [John] Bunyan to imprisonment unless he promised them he would not preach, he refused, declaring that he would remain in prison till the moss grew on his eyelids rather than fail to do what God had commanded him to do. -- "John Bunyan and the Pilgrim's Progress," Christian History, no. 11.
4. Do not let Satan or the world discourage you with the appearance of evil's triumphant in the moment … the day of justice will fully come.
II. CATASTROPHE OF FAITHLESSNESS 8:6-9:21
A. Confronted! 8:6-13
1. The day of sin free from judgment comes to an end, and what a terrible end it will be!
a. The angels prepare to sound the 7 trumpets of judgment.
b. These judgments have similarities to the plagues on Egypt when God delivered Israel.
c. Israel's 400 + years of injustice came to an end, and Egypt was dealt a severe blow … while it appeared for so many centuries that Egypt had gotten away with sin and injustice, judgment came upon them suddenly.
2. The judgments are severe!
a. A third of the sea turns to blood.
b. A third of the living creatures in the sea die.
c. A third of ships at sea are destroyed.
d. A blazing star falls from the sky and makes a third of all the fresh water sources polluted.
e. A third of the sun, moon, and stars are darkened, a third of daylight is gone.
3. These and other woes begin to descend in rapid succession upon the evil doers of Earth.
4. We learn in 9:4 that God supernaturally protects those who belong to Him during this time of outpoured wrath … just as God had protected Israel from most of the plagues that came upon Egypt.
5. This will be a terrible time … sin has a terrible price … the only reason people don't think so today is because God is withholding full judgment at the present, but that doesn't mean it won't happen!
a. It certainly is not popular to speak of this side of God's righteousness, but it is all too true!
b. It is important that the world know that this is coming upon the unrighteous … so that they might flee from the wrath to come by accepting Christ now!
ILLUS:Some of you have heard me tell about my early ministry when I served a little church in rural Georgia. One Saturday we went to the funeral of a relative of somebody in my church. It was in a little country church not of my denomination. I grew up in a big downtown church. I had never been to a funeral like this one. They had the body out there. The casket was open, and the funeral consisted of a sermon by their preacher.
The preacher pounded on the pulpit and looked over at the casket. He would say, "It's too late for Joe. He might have wanted to get his life together. He might have wanted to spend more time with his family. He might have wanted to do that, but he's dead now. It is too late for him, but it is not too late for you. There is still time for you. You still can decide. You still are alive. It is not too late for you. Today is the day of decision."
Then the preacher told how a Greyhound bus had run into a funeral procession once on the way to the cemetery, and that could happen today. He said, "You should decide today. Today is the day to get your life together. Too late for old Joe, but it's not too late for you."
I was so angry at that preacher. On the way home, I told my wife "Have you ever seen anything as manipulative and as insensitive to that poor family? I found it disgusting."
She said, "I've never heard anything like that. It was manipulative. It was disgusting. It was insensitive. Worst of all, it was also true." -- William Willimon, "The Writing on the Wall," Preaching Today, Tape No. 129.
c. We really shouldn't be ashamed or embarrassed by these great truths, they are recorded in order to warn mankind.
d. God warned Noah of what was coming so he could preach and warn sinful man about the coming judgment … God warned Sodom and Gomorrah of impending doom so they could change … this is the idea behind God's judgment, He warns ahead of time so a way of escape can be found … and this is the person of Jesus Christ!
e. This is God's love at work for sinful man, that they are warned ahead of time.
B. Consequences! 9:1-19
1. This passage reveals the middle of the Tribulation period, when Satan is allowed to let loose horrible demons that have been held in chains since the beginning of time.
a. Man's rebellion against God and his willingness to embrace evil and Satan's ways will follow a terrible path toward hyper evil!
b. There will be released on the earth great armies to produce havoc!
2. Finally man will experience the full force of sin, the leadership of Satan's forces … and the consequences will be horrific!
3. There will be such suddenness to all these calamities that men will long to die and death will escape them! (see 9:6)
a. The torture will be great on the earth … and yet in the midst of all this men and women will still curse God and reject Him!
b. The tragic side of sin is that it fails to acknowledge God's way out … mankind will continue to be stubborn in sin in spite of all the warnings and consequences!
4. Even though warned in God's Word now there will be those who will completely ignore these warnings and experience tragic results!
ILLUS:The May 1984 National Geographic showed through color photos and drawings the swift and terrible destruction that wiped out the Roman Cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum in A.D. 79. The explosion of Mount Vesuvius was so sudden, the residents were killed while in their routine: men and women were at the market, the rich in their luxurious baths, slaves at toil. They died amid volcanic ash and superheated gasses. Even family pets suffered the same quick and final fate. It takes little imagination to picture the panic of that terrible day.
The saddest part is that these people did not have to die. Scientists confirm what ancient Roman writers record--weeks of rumblings and shakings preceded the actual explosion. Even an ominous plume of smoke was clearly visible from the mountain days before the eruption. If only they had been able to read and respond to Vesuvius's warning!
There are similar "rumblings" in our world: warfare, earthquakes, the nuclear threat, economic woes, breakdown of the family and moral standards. While not exactly new, these things do point to a coming day of Judgment (Matt. 24). People need not be caught unprepared. God warns and provides an escape to those who will heed the rumblings. -- Michael Bogart, Lemoore, California. Leadership, Vol. 6, no. 4.
5. The destruction described by John is devastating … the high price for sin can be seen here.
a. So when you feel that the ungodly are getting away with murder, just remember that there is a time when sin really will be judged.
b. Thank God for a way out of judgment … this is what makes the sacrifice of Jesus Christ so amazing, He took the judgment for sin upon Himself so we can escape it, what love so divine!
C. Consistent! 9:20-21
1. Even after such painful judgment the hearts of men and women will still not turn from wickedness! 9:20
a. Those who turned their backs on God before will continue to do so even in the midst of great judgment.
b. How tragic the deceived life!
2. The way out was plain to all, even now the gift of salvation is free and available to all … yet there will be those who will remain frozen in their sins and refusing to be delivered.
3. We cannot just look on and watch all this coming destruction … what about the lost? Can we simply watch those who are lost in sins continue moving toward this great judgment and not help them to escape?
ILLUS:A man named Floyd Collins, in 1925, was exploring near Mammoth Cave in Kentucky and got stuck. He was fifty-five feet from the surface and he got stuck. Icy water was dripping in his face. The rescuers came in and diverted the water, and they talked with him, they calmed him down, but they couldn't get him out.
He began to come unglued there, stuck in that cave. He was able to see the light, able to see where he wanted to be, hearing voices, getting food, but he was stuck and he couldn't get out. So he slowly began to have raving lunacies about everything from chicken sandwiches to angels in white chariots.
The newspapers got in on it, and ten thousand people came to see him. They sold hot dogs and sandwiches. It was a side show. Seventeen days later Floyd Collins died in that hole, able to see where he wanted to be and not able to get there. -- Roger Thompson, "The Good News Is: The Bad News Is Wrong," Preaching Today, Tape No. 55.
4. We know the way of escape, it is Jesus Christ our Lord.
a. Today is the day of salvation … what will you do?
b. Are you content to remain in your sins and hope for the best in the future?
c. Be sure that your sins will find you out … God has not yet settled the accounts, but that will happen as surely as He died on Calvary.
d. The good news is that Christ has made it possible to avoid all this.
CONCLUSION: The greatest tragedy of Revelation is not found in the details of the future events as much as it is in the stubbornness of the sinful heart to refuse God's way of salvation! Sin will have catastrophic consequences, if not now, certainly in the future. Jesus Christ offers a way out of these tragic consequences, accept Him today.