RETURN OF THE KING! (REVELATION 19)

(To listen to the audio version of this lesson click HERE.)

THE RETURN OF THE KING

(Revelation 19:1-21)

Several weeks ago, I bought a T-shirt off the internet. I did so hoping it might become a conversation starter with strangers. My hope was more than fulfilled. Not once in all the times I’ve worn it have I failed to receive a comment or compliment about it. In fact, when I wore it last, my radiologist wanted to know where she could get one for her husband. If you look at its picture below, you’ll see why it draws such attention.

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You and I live in a day of superheroes – Superman, Batman, Ironman, Spiderman, etc. Of course, not one of them is real. Yet they have captured the attention of my grandson and millions of other children. So, I use the shirt to explain to those who comment that while it’s fun to pretend that superheroes are real, there is only One Superhero who has ever lived – Jesus, who really did save the world, but the way He did so was by dying for our sins.

That is the event we celebrate at Christmas. We celebrate the first coming of Jesus who died on a cross to save us from our sins. That may not win Him the glamor of comic book heroes, because what comic book heroes specialize in is power. But again, they like their victories, are fictitious. The only supernatural feats ever achieved by a human being were through the power of Jesus Christ who stilled a storm, fed a multitude with a few loaves and fishes, healed people of incurable diseases, and then following His crucifixion rose miraculously from the dead. Furthermore, what the world forgets is that the coming of Messiah was prophesied to be in two parts – the first, to deal with sin; and the second, to deal with His enemies. Hence, Jesus is coming again. This time not as the meek and mild Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world but as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah who will judge His enemies and set up a kingdom of righteousness that will last forever.

That is the focus of this study. In Revelation 19, we witness the Return of the King. At the Rapture, you remember, Jesus will return in the air for His saints to save them from the wrath of God to be poured out on the world. But in Revelation 19, Jesus returns to the earth with His saints to end the Tribulation and set up His kingdom. In so doing, two great themes stand out. The first is the vindication of God’s people. The second even more important theme is the vindication of Christ’s glory.

  1. THE VINDICATION OF CHRIST’S PEOPLE

For 2,000 years, Lucifer has been allowed to tempt, slander, persecute, and counterfeit Christ’s church. I think of that now as the world celebrates the first coming of Christ at Christmas. I wonder how many celebrants truly love Jesus. But it is not mine to worry, for one day soon the devil’s deceptions will end and those who genuinely love Jesus will be honored as the true worshipers of God, while those who hate His church will be punished for their sins. Notice three ways Christ will vindicate those who worship Him.

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A. He Will Judge Our Enemies

Verse 1 begins, “After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in Heaven shouting: Hallelujah, salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are His judgments. He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries, and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants.’ Verse 6 adds, ‘Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: Hallelujah for our Lord God Almighty reigns.’”

FLASH MOB SINGS HALLELUJAH CHORUS

Ever since Handel wrote the “Hallelujah Chorus,” it has been regarded as the most sublime expression of praise performed by man. God’s hand was seen in that it took Handel but three days to write the chorus. But here that earthly chorus is eclipsed by the Heavenly choir that inspired his song. What does “Hallelujah” mean? “Praise the Lord!” a phrase found only here in the New Testament, and used four times in six verses to describe the ecstasy of Heaven’s worship. What inspires such feelings? John points to two things:

  1. The end of false religion

Verse 2 reads in the original language, “True and just are His judgments, because He has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her fornication.” Because gives the reason for heaven’s joy. In chapter 17, we learned that the great prostitute is the city of Babylon who gave birth to the false religions of the world and is the force behind the persecution of the saints. Therefore, it is fitting that before Jesus introduces His bride the church, He should judge false religion and that the church in Heaven should rejoice. In fact, God commands it in Revelation 18:20. “Rejoice over her, O Heaven! Rejoice, saints and apostles and prophets! For God has judged her for the way she treated you.”

Imagine! No more cults twisting Scripture or distorting the person of Christ. No more ACLU opposition to the mention of God in government or the public schools. No more persecution of God’s people anywhere! Whomever you talk to in that day will instantly agree: “Jesus is Lord!” We’re not to relish the judgment of sinners, but we are to long for the day when Christ will receive the glory that He alone deserves.

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  1. The beginning of the Kingdom

Verse 6 literally reads, “Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude . . . shouting: ‘Hallelujah for our Lord God Almighty has begun to reign.’” It’s not that Heaven’s throne is inactive today. God is still on His throne ruling and overruling to accomplish His will. It’s that the church’s prayers for a kingdom are finally being answered. God’s kingdom will now come and His will is done on earth as it is in Heaven.” (Matt. 6:10)

B. He Will Introduce His Bride

 The multitude continues in verse 7, “Let us rejoice and be glad and give Him glory for the wedding of the Lamb is come and His bride has made herself ready.” To appreciate this event, we must understand the wedding customs in John’s day, which consisted of three phases. First, the betrothal. This was a binding legal contract between the parents of the bride and groom, which meant the two parties were legally married though the marriage would not be consummated for many years. That was the relationship between Mary and Joseph when Mary was found to be child with by the Holy Spirit. During this period, the bride prepared her trousseau and the groom prepared an extra room to his father’s house where they would live. Then, following the betrothal, the groom would return for his bride, surprising her with a shout and escorting her to the room he prepared for her. There the wedding was conducted with a marriage feast to which many were invited.

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Isn’t that a beautiful picture of our relationship with Jesus? Right now we’re in the betrothal period. Legally, we belong to Him and love Him, though we have not yet seen Him, because He saved us and and purchased us with His own precious blood. During this period, important preparations are being made. Jesus said, “In My Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2. Meanwhile, we the bride prepare our trousseau here on earth.

Of what does this trousseau consist? Verse 8 says, “fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints. Don’t misunderstand! The devil is a liar. Before we accept Christ, he tells us that we must earn our salvation– something the Bible denies. “For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” (Eph. 2:8-9). But then we accept Christ, and what does the devil whisper next? “Now that you’re saved by grace, you don’t have to do anything about it!” But that’s wrong too. “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph. 2:10). In other words, once we are saved, we began to prepare for ourselves the garments we will wear forever. No believer will be naked in that day. Jesus promised if we love Him, we will be clothed in white garments.” (Rev. 3:5). But the degree of glory with which those garments shine is the result of “the righteous acts” we perform today.

In John’s day, men wore two pieces of clothing — a robe-like undergarment called a tunic, made of plain white linen. That represents the righteousness of Christ, which He gives each follower as a gift. No one will be allowed into God’s presence without that spiritual covering. But on the outside of the tunic, there was also a loose, dressy robe, known as a toga. That’s analogous to our righteous deeds as Christians. 1 Corinthians 3:12 suggests that we can adorn it with gold, silver, and precious gems, if we serve Him faithfully. But if not – if we live foolishly and selfishly – we will lose our rewards and be rather shabby in appearance. So be careful! What you sew today, you will wear for eternity!

raptured-saintsFollowing the betrothal period, two events will occur. First, Jesus will return for His church. In John 14:3, He said, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” 1 Thessalonians 4 adds, “The Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a shout . . . Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together . . . in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.” Second, after the rewarding and wedding of the church to Christ in heaven, will follow the marriage supper of the Lamb on earth. That’s what’s announced here: “Rejoice and be glad and give Him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready.” (Rev. 19:7)

When and where will this feast take place? Some say it’ll happen in Heaven before Jesus returns to earth. I disagree. Remember what Jesus said at the institution of the Lord’s Supper: “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until the day when I drink it anew with you in My Father’s kingdom.” (Matt. 26:29) For that reason, I believe it’ll be the first order of business when the kingdom begins. That’s why verse 9 says, “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” They are blessed because they get to enter the kingdom. Matthew 8:11 refers to this: “Many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of Heaven.” In other words, it isn’t only church age believers who will be there. It will be believers from every age who are invited because of their love for Christ.

199096d4f7d1eb4ab4811e41aec56b16Take a moment to check yourself before we go on. Can you say with confidence that you will be present when the marriage supper of the Lamb takes place? If so, will the garments you’ve prepared for yourself bring you joy or shame?

3. HE WILL WELCOME OUR WORSHIP

 In verse 10, John is so overwhelmed by what he sees that he falls at the angel’s feet in worship. From a human standpoint, this is understandable. For this is no ordinary angel. Revelation 18 says he fills the whole earth with his glory. Yet God accepts no substitutes in worship. So John is quickly corrected. “Do not do it!” Why not? Because as glorious as the angel is, the only one worthy of our worship is Jesus. The angel says. “I am a fellow servant with you and with your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God for the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Hebrews adds, “When He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “And let all the angels of God worship Him.”

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What an important warning in this day of spiritual superstars and religious counterfeits! Take the Roman church. I’m grateful for the way it’s preserved many of the key doctrines of our faith through the centuries – the Trinity, the inspiration of the Bible, etc. – but honesty forces us to recognize it’s also been a proponent of false worship. Members and clergy alike offer prayers to Mary and other departed saints. Popes themselves have also shown a willingness to receive the worship of their followers. I will never forget the Pope’s visit to America in 1987. We were in Florida at the time, and the reaction was incredible – even among non-Catholics! I remember hearing one woman in the crowd remark, “Now I can die in peace, for I have seen the Holy Father!”

The Mormon church is another example. For what’s the ultimate goal of every Mormon male? To become a God and populate his own planet with spiritual children, who will worship him as Heavenly Father. The slogan is, “As God is, you may be!” Add to this the New Age nonsense about “finding the God within,” and it’s clear that man’s most basic spiritual problem today is finding the proper object of worship. But the true Church (made up of all who love the Lord Jesus Christ) knows that there is only one proper object of worship, and that’s the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 8:24, “Unless you believe that I AM (the Hebrew name of God), you will die in your sins.” Why is the Bible so adamant about this? Because Jesus went on to explain, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6) How crucial this truth is becomes even more obvious as we turn to the second great theme of this chapter.

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  1. THE VINDICATION OF CHRIST’S GLORY

Revelation 19:11-21 is unquestionably one of the most exciting passages a Christian can read. For here it’s not merely the church, but Jesus Christ who is vindicated. I write this article in the month of December watching the world celebrate the birthday of our King, who came the first time as the meek and mild Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Because the world mistakes meekness for weakness, He was rejected as their Savior. After all, who is attracted to a man dying on a cross? What the world wants is a conquering hero who takes the world by storm! But make no mistake. When Jesus comes again, no longer will He be the meek and mild Lamb of God; He will be revealed as the glorious Lion of the Tribe of Judah, who executes judgment on all His enemies.

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  1. His Glory Will Be Revealed in His Names

Notice three names in these verses. Verse 12 says, “He has a name written on Him that no one knows but He Himself.” This is a reminder of Christ’s incomprehensibility: He is so glorious that there are some things about Him that we will never understand. Sometimes a believer will say, “I can hardly wait to get to Heaven. There all my questions will be answered.” Not so! The truth is, that which is finite can never fully understand the Infinite. God is ultimately incomprehensible to the human mind – even in heaven! Only what is necessary for our joy and well-being will be revealed. Deuteronomy 29:29 says, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

Verse 13 adds, “His name is the word of God.” This is John’s favorite title for Jesus. His gospel begins, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . All things were made by Him and without Him was not anything made that was made . . . And the Word became flesh and dwell among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” In his book, There’s a New World Coming, Hal Lindsay explains the meaning of this phrase:

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“Just as my words reveal my invisible self to you, so Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. God clothed all His thoughts toward man in the person of Jesus. In that sense, Jesus is the ultimate communication of God to man. He’s called “the living Word” because in His person, Jesus embodies everything God has to say to man about how to obtain eternal life.”

 Finally, verse 16 says, “On His robe and on His thigh, He has this name written: ‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords.’” This is Jesus’ title found nowhere else in Scripture. What does it mean? It means He is sovereign over every ruler – both human and angelic. To stress this, the Greek text puts it in giant capital letters: ‘KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”

Vicar Frederic Farrar, shared the words of Queen Victoria following his sermon on the Lord’s Return. “O, how I wish the Lord would come in my lifetime!” the queen said to the dean. “Why does your Majesty feel this great desire?” The preacher said. With queenly countenance lit up with deep emotion, she replied, “Because I should so love to lay my crown at His feet.” You and I will have that opportunity one day, along with all the kings and queens of the earth. For one day the Bible says, “Every knee shall bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil. 2:11)

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B.  His Glory Will Be Revealed in His Appearance

 Several facts are emphasized about Jesus appearance in these verses, each one intended to reveal something about His glory. Let me highlight four of them. 

  1. His horse

Verse 11 says: “I saw Heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse.” This is in contrast to the humility Christ displayed at His coming. On Palm Sunday, He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. But when He returns He will be sitting on a great white stallion conquering everyone who stands in His path.

 2. His crowns

In Revelations 6:2, we read about another rider on a white horse who wears a crown on his head. Remember that when we studied Revelation 6:1, I argued at that time that this is a false Christ – the antichrist. How can I tell? Because according to Revelation 19:12, when Jesus returns, He won’t be wearing a single crown. He’ll be wearing many crowns on His head – proof that He is indeed the king of every tribe, tongue and nation. Furthermore, the word crown in chapter 6 was stephanos, which means a crown of victory, whereas this word is diademata, which refers to royal crowns that only king are allowed to wear.

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 3. His sword

Verse 15 continues: “Out of His mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.” This is not the small sword of Hebrews 4, which convicts our hearts of sin. This is a giant sword (hromphaia) used to decapitate one’s enemies.

 4. His rod

Verse 15 goes on to say, “He will rule them with a rod of iron.” This is the royal scepter with which Jesus will rule the nations during the millennium. Some may recoil at the use of these weapons. But let’s not forget what verse 11 says. When Jesus judges and wages war, He will do so “in righteousness.” In other words, there will be no injustice in His kingdom. The only ones who need to fear punishment are those who intend to rebel against Him, for they will be punished severely for their crimes. The Bible teaches that believers who live through the tribulation will enter the kingdom in natural human bodies, which means they will bear children and new generations will grow up with the potential of rebelling against the Lord.

 C. His Glory Will Be Revealed in His Victories

Christ’s conquest of Earth takes place through three successive victories over His enemies: 1) His defeat of the beast and the false prophet in Revelation 19:22  2) His defeat of Earth’s armies in Revelation 19:21  3) His defeat of Lucifer in chapter 20. Our study concludes with His first two victories in verses 20 and 21.

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  1. His victory over the Beast

Verse 19: “Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war against the Rider on the horse and His army. But the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who had performed the miraculous signs on his behalf.” “The two of them were thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” This victory takes place just prior to Christ’s judgment of Earth’s armies, and it’s significant because it means the followers of the beast and prophet will be forced to watch as their heroes are caught and cast into the lake of fire. What humiliation and perfect punishment! Earth’s greatest sinners become the first two residents of hell.

All other sinners will await final judgment in Hades, a temporary place of punishment. But these two villains are so vile they require no final judgment. They’ll immediately be “thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulfur.” Furthermore, if anyone asks if there’s a second chance for those in hell, remind them that the lake of fire is not a place of temporary punishment. For next week, when we read of Satan’s judgment in chapter 20, we find that even after 1000 years of burning, the beast and false prophet are still in the lake of fire, suffering “torment day and night forever.” 

  1. His victory over earth’s armies

Verse 21 concludes, “The rest of them (that is, the armies of the beast and false prophet) were killed with the sword that came out of the mouth of the Rider on the horse and all the birds gorge themselves on their flesh.”

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This is the battle of Armageddon, at which Earth’s armies gather together in a final, mad attempt to blow the Creator out of the sky. Until now, man has put his faith in the beast, believing that he is superior to Jesus Christ. But now they realize how wrong they were. For just as quickly as Christ called the world into existence, Jesus now kills the armies of the earth with the Word of His mouth, preparing the way for the great supper of God. This is in contrast to the marriage supper of the Lamb. For while believers are feasting in the kingdom, unbelievers will be consumed by the birds of prey. Six times John uses the word “flesh” in this passage warning man not only of the great carnage ahead, but also of the danger of his fallen nature. Man fails because he is flesh and relies on the flesh, whereas those who love Christ overcome because they are filled with the Spirit of Jesus.

The other fact that stands out is the description of those who return with Christ. Verse 14 says that those who follow Him will be “riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean.” What does this reveal about the glory of Christ’s victory? Tim LaHaye offers this helpful comment:

“The most significant truth is the garb of this army. They are ‘clothed in fine linen, white and clean. Military men are issued fatigue uniforms for battle dress not only for camouflage but also because war is so dirty that light-colored clothes would be severely soiled. Here, however, the Commander-in-Chief of the Heavenly forces clothes His army in white, a practice unheard of in the history of warfare. The reason should not be overlooked: no member of the armies that come with Christ in His glorious appearing will do battle. Not one of us will lift a finger, for the battle will be won by the spoken word of our Lord.”

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I began our study by reminding you that there are two parts involved in God’s invasion of the Earth. He came humbly the first time – that meek and mild Lamb of God who died on a cross to pay for our sins. But not so the second time. For almost two thousand years now, His followers have been praying, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” You may have prayed that prayer yourself. But C. S. Lewis added this warning about that prayer. He wrote:

“God will invade. But I wonder whether people who ask God to interfere openly and directly in our world quite realise what it will be like when He does. When that happens, it is the end of the world. When the author walks on to the stage the play is over. God is going to invade, all right: but what is the good of saying you are on His side then, when you see the whole natural universe melting away like a dream and something else – something it never entered your head to conceive – comes crashing in; something so beautiful to some of us and so terrible to others that none of us will have any choice left? For this time it will God without disguise; something so overwhelming that it will strike either irresistible love or irresistible horror into every creature. It will be too late then to choose your side. There is no use saying you choose to lie down when it has become impossible to stand up. That will not be the time for choosing; it will be the time when we discover which side we really have chosen, whether we realised it before or not. Now, today, this moment, is our chance to choose the right side. God is holding back to give us that chance. It will not last forever. We must take it or leave it.”

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(To download and copy the written version of this lesson, click HERE.)

Are You a Highly Sensitive Person?

According to recent studies, 20% of us are highly sensitive people. That means, first of all, that it’s not a personality disorder. It’s a good and normal trait which the insensitive use to label us as inferior or weaker to them. Of course, because we sensitive people tend to be introspective, we may be apt to agree with them. But their claims are simply not true! The fact of the matter is that those who study highly sensitive people find they contribute more to their families, their work teams, and society in general than the insensitive. That is because their sensitivity makes them more compassionate to others, keen observers of their circumstances, and more apt to find creative solutions to problems than hard-driving Type A personalities who mow others down in their mad push for success.

So now that we know the truth, we who are highly sensitive need to embrace our God-given gift and learn how to use it to bless those around. Likewise, those without it, must learn to respect and recruit the highly sensitive for the contributions they can make to the workplace, the family, and the Kingdom of God. Jesus assured us in Matthew 5:3-10.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are they who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.
Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

With all that in mind, let me suggest two excellent resources for those who are in need of additional understanding and growth in this area. First, a well-resourced book —


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Second, a fascinating explanation of the value of this personality trait by the author –https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=The+Highly+Sensitive+Person+Elaine+Aron&qft=%2bfilterui%3amsite-youtube.com&view=detail&mid=DD65244F312147E33FF1DD65244F312147E33FF1&FORM=VRDGAR

Finally, for those who’d like to watch, rent, or buy the movie “Sensitive: The Untold Story,” featuring the author and a well-known Highly Sensitive Person, songwriter Alannis Morisette – click on this http://sensitive-theuntoldstory.vhx.tv/

If you’ve found this study helpful, please share your comments in the space following this post. Thanks for visiting! And the Merriest Christmas Ever!!!

Turning Thanks Into Thankfulness

(To listen to the audio version of this message, please click Here.)

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There’s a story I came across on the internet about a young man named John who was given a parrot as a gift. But the bird had a bad attitude and a vulgar tongue. So John set out to change its behavior and clean up his language. But nothing helped. Finally one afternoon, as the parrot let loose with a new stream of profanity, John lost it. He yelled at the bird and shook the bird, but that only made the parrot angrier. So in a moment of desperation, he grabbed the bird by the neck and threw it in the freezer. For several minutes, the parrot squawked and screamed. Then it grew deathly quiet. Afraid he’d hurt him, John opened the freezer, and to his surprise, the bird walked out, calm as could be, and took a seat on John’s arm. “I owe you an apology,” the bird said. “I know I’ve offended you with my rude behavior, and I want you to know I’m sorry. I promise from this day forward I’m going to change my behavior.” Surprised at the bird’s change of heart, John was about to ask him why, when the bird continued, “By the way, it’s none of my business, but may I ask you, what did the turkey do wrong?”

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Just two more days, and Thanksgiving will have arrived. Can you believe it? And though we’ve all been taught to be thankful, there’s still more that we can learn. I know that’s true of me. Sometimes I’m like that parrot, and the Bible says you are too—stubborn and uncooperative as your Master seeks to create a new spirit in you. Otherwise, why the warning in Psalm 32:9? “Do not be like the horse or the mule which have no understanding but must be controlled by bit and bridle or they will not come to you.” We get stuck in our ways, missing out on the joy God wants to give us. Listen to this poem from the pen of 14-year-old, Jason Lehman, a young man wise beyond his years. I think it captures the heart of our problem. He writes:

It was spring, but it was summer I wanted, the warm days and great outdoors. It was summer, but it was fall I wanted, the colorful leaves and cool, dry air. It was fall, but it was winter I wanted, the beautiful snow and joy of the holiday season. It was winter, but it was spring I wanted, the warmth and blossoming of nature. I was a child, but it was adulthood I wanted, the freedom and respect. I was 20, but it was 30 I wanted, to be mature and sophisticated. I was middle-aged, but it was 20 I wanted, the youth and free spirit. I was retired, but it was middle age I wanted, the presence of mind without limitations. My life was over, but I never got what I wanted.

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Isn’t that so often the case? The Bible says God has given us everything we need for life and godliness. But instead of being content with what we have, we’re restless searching for something more to bring us fulfillment. But the good news is that with the help of the Holy Spirit, that search can end today. 1 Timothy 6:6 says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. Therefore, having food and clothing, with these let us be content.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16 adds, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.”

And from Hebrews 13:5, our passage for today, the author says (no one knows who wrote it—Paul, James, Barnabas) but what he says is powerful. “Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.” Thanksgiving, in other words, is one of the most important things we do as Christians, and to see why, I’d like to emphasize 3 facts about it.

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1. Praise Is Pleasing to God.

Notice again what the author says. He calls it “a sacrifice of praise to God,” which immediately tells us something about it, because it’s a word which he repeats throughout the book of Hebrews—13 times to describe the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament and once to describe the final sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross to pay for our sins. That tells us that praise is as serious to God as a sacrifice offered for sin.

In fact, David says it’s more important than that! Psalm 69:31 says, “I will praise the name of God with a song, and magnify Him with thanksgiving. And it will please the Lord better than an ox or a young bull with horns and hoofs.” What is he saying? He’s saying that praise is more pleasing to God than all the lambs and bulls and goats sacrificed in the Old Testament Tabernacle and Temple. Praise is our most pleasing sacrifice of all. And what was true then is just as true today. More valuable than all that we do for God—teaching, giving, serving—more important than all these things is the attitude with which we do them. Are we doing them with an attitude of gratitude and a heart of praise? Because what pleases God most is “a sacrifice of praise, the fruit of lips giving thanks to His name.”

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Psalm 107 adds, “Oh that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare His works with rejoicing.” The point is: God has been good to us every day of our lives, and not only to us, but to all the children of men. Therefore, we ought to praise Him, not simply because He deserves it, but because He desires it. Isn’t that incredible? The King of the Universe desires our praise. Not out of a sense of need. Some people think the reason God created us was because He was lonely and needed someone to keep Him company. But nothing could be farther from the truth. A lonely God is an imperfect, incomplete God, and our God has never been incomplete. From eternity past, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit enjoyed perfect love with one another, which was so full that it overflowed and He created us, not because He needed us, but because He loves us and enjoys receiving our praise.

Isn’t that amazing! You and I can bring joy to the heart of God simply by giving Him praise. Of course, what pleases Him is also good for us. For example, just think how much of a day’s unhappiness and temptation could be avoided if we simply learned to be content with what we have. Instead, we spend inordinate amounts of energy and emotion craving and scheming to get what we believe our all-knowing and all-loving God has forgotten to give us.

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I love the way Garrison Keillor, the great storyteller of Lake Wobegon fame, puts it. He says, “Some luck lies in not getting what you thought you wanted, but in getting what you have, which once you have it, you may be smart enough to see is what you would have wanted had you known.”

So, in answer to the question, “How important is praise to God?” The answer is: It’s all-important—so important that when the Holy Spirit inspired the writing of the Bible, He made sure an entire book was dedicated to it. We call it the book of Psalms—the longest book in the Bible with praise emanating from every experience of life. That’s fact #1: Praise is pleasing to God. Fact #2 is:

2. Praise Is Costly to the Worshiper.

That’s why it’ called a “sacrifice,” not only because of its seriousness to God, but because of what it costs the worshiper to offer it. Remember the story that Nathan the prophet once told? King David committed adultery with the beautiful wife of a poor man assuming that as king, he could get away with it. But the woman became pregnant. So, to cover it up, the first thing David did was lie, and when that didn’t work, he had the poor man killed. But God loved David too much to let him get away with it. So, He sent the prophet Nathan to confront him with his sin. But you have to be tactful when confronting someone with their sin, especially if it’s a king.

So, Nathan made up a story about a poor man who owned a lamb that was precious to him and his children. It shared his food, it drank from his cup, and it even slept in his arms. Then one day his rich neighbor had a visitor, but instead of butchering his own sheep to feed him, he stole the lamb of the poor man. And when he heard about it, David was furious until Nathan revealed to him, “You are that man, O King! God gave you everything your heart desired, but what did you do? You stole your neighbor’s wife, and killed him to cover it up!”

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David went on to repent of his sin. But the point is: The reason Nathan’s story pricked the king’s heart is because it was an experience familiar to every Jew. Every year at Passover each family was required to sacrifice a lamb in the Temple—a lamb that had become precious to them—raised as a family pet, loved by the children, and allowed to roam in and out of the house at will. So, when the time came to lead it up the path to the Temple, there was sorrow in that experience, but also joy, because the worshiper was sacrificing something that was precious to him. As David himself said when he sacrificed the burnt offering and dedicated the altar to the Lord in Jerusalem, “I will not give to the Lord that which costs me nothing!” Because he knew that in order for our worship to be genuine, it has to cost us something.

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We, of course, no longer offer sacrifices in an earthly Temple, for when Jesus died on the cross, He said, “It is finished! The work of salvation is done.” But we do have a sacrifice to make, and what’s that? Our text calls it a “sacrifice of praise, the fruit of our lips that give thanks to His name.” Why is it called “a sacrifice?” Because it isn’t always easy to do! A friend disappoints us. Our child rejects the values we’ve taught them and chooses to go the way of the world. Our health fails. Our retirement account takes a major hit. A loved one falls ill and dies. What do you do at times like these when you don’t feel thankful? You do what Job did! You says, “Naked came I from my mother’s womb and naked will I return. The Lord has given and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!” They say that talk is cheap and that anybody can praise the lord. But that isn’t true, not if it’s the right kind of talk and our praise is genuine. That kind of talk is both costly to the worshiper and highly pleasing to God, for it comes from a heart of faith.

Joseph Scriven knew what it was like to offer that kind of praise. His plan on graduating from Trinity College was to marry a beautiful Irish girl he’d fallen in love with. But the day before their wedding, his bride-to-be drowned in a river. Unable to find any comfort at home, Scriven left Ireland and sailed for Canada where tragedy struck again. Falling in love a second time, his fiancé contracted tuberculosis and died just days before the wedding. How does a person of faith cope with heartache like that? Scriven did it by writing words of praise which we still sing today:

What-A-Friend-We-Have-In-Jesus-Full-ScoreThe truth is: Life is often very comfortable for Christians in our country. Few of us have had to face the persecution which is a daily experience for believers in other countries. That may change in days to come. In fact, I recently had a nightmare in which the Bible was outlawed in our land, and I was being tortured for my faith in Christ—beaten with a rod and teeth pulled out with pliers—because I wouldn’t stop preaching the truth. It was a terrifying dream from which I awoke thinking, “Gary, you’d better get a lot tougher than you are, because difficult days could be just around the corner. I hope that isn’t true. But it could be. And if you and I are ever asked to suffer for our faith in Christ, what will our reaction be? Will it be like that of the disciples in Acts chapter 5? When flogged for their faith, it says afterwards, “They went on their way rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for the name of Christ.” Few of us have had to face that kind of suffering. And yet, we can still bring great glory to God by taking whatever we suffer—illness, job loss, death of a loved one—and using it as an opportunity to offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name, saying, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”

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That’s the legacy of the Pilgrims, isn’t it, and why we talk about them each year at this time—not because they were the first people to thank God. The reason we remember them is because they did in the midst of great suffering and sadness.

Think of the hardships they faced. That first winter of 1620, they lost 47 of their 102 people to death—nearly half their original group! The death rate in February was two a day. 13 out of 18 wives died. Only 3 families were untouched by death. But by the second winter, things were better. So, they celebrated a thanksgiving meal with their Indian friends who gobbled up all their supplies. About this time, new settlers also began arriving from England, and their rations had to be cut to just 5 kernels of corn a day. How do you survive on 5 kernels of corn a day?

They endured great hardship that winter, but by the grace of God, no one died. So, when the third November came, and they saw the abundance of the crops, they held a great day of Thanksgiving, and again they invited the Indians—120 braves this time. And together they feasted on pork, turkey, venison, chicken, nuts, grapes, plums, and dozens of other delicacies. A fabulous feast with plenty for all! But what was the first item placed on everyone’s plate? 5 kernels of corn—so they’d remember. Praise is pleasing to God, costly to the worshiper, and fact #3—

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III. Praise Is to Be Our Habit.

How does Hebrews 13:15 put it? “Through Jesus, let us frequently offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name?” No, it says it’s something we’re to do continually, at all times and under all circumstances, no matter how rough the going gets. “In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Or as the Psalmist puts it, “I will bless the Lord at all times. His praise shall continually be in my mouth.” You see, the truth is: Anyone can praise God when the sun is shining and everything is right with the world. But what about those dark days when the future isn’t nearly as certain and we’re forced to walk by faith and not by sight? That’s when praise becomes precious and powerful because it proves to God and to everyone else who’s watching that we really do love and trust Him even when we aren’t sure what the outcome will be. And that takes work—hard work!

Mothers know this better than anyone else. For example, I’m thinking back right now to report card day and a promise I made to our girls because they’d done so well in school. I promised that I’d take each of them out to lunch at their favorite restaurant. Rebecca picked Dairy Queen—not exactly my idea of fine dining—but that’s what she wanted. So, I said to her as I headed off to work, “Great! You get dressed, have Mom brush your hair, and I’ll be back at noon to pick you up.” So, I come home at 11:30, half an hour before we’re to leave, and what do I find? I find her grousing and griping at her mother, frustrated that she’s had to wait so long. So, what do I do? Here I am, about to take her out to lunch as a reward, and she has an attitude problem. And I don’t want to reward her for that!

countyourblessings4So, I send up a quick prayer, ask for wisdom, and suddenly I hear Cheryl, who was a fantastic mother, correcting her in the other room: “Now listen here, young lady, I’ve had enough of this. You’re going to sit down on that couch and change your attitude, or you’re not going anywhere. I want you to think of at least 5 things right now that you’re thankful for. Do you hear me?” “Yes, Mom,” she says. “Then get started!” And you know it wasn’t but 2 minutes later that I heard her say, “OK, Mom, can I get up now?” “Have you thought of what you’re thankful for?” “Yes, I have.” “Then you come out here and tell me what they are.” So, she did. She said, “I’m thankful for my school. I’m thankful for my church. I’m thankful for my Dad.” And she listed several other things, and then she asked, “Mom, what are thankful for?” So, Cheryl named several things she was thankful for. And back and forth they went for at least 5 minutes. And you know it was amazing! By the time they finished, her attitude was altogether different. She was the happiest and most grateful little girl in the world, and we had a great time at lunch together.

Friends, you and I are no different. If we’re complaining, our Heavenly Father isn’t free to give us anything. But when we take time to realize how good He’s been to us, it not only changes our attitude; it puts us on the path to developing a whole new habit of thanksgiving! And that’s what praise is meant to be: a habit, a custom, and a whole new lifestyle in response to the never-ending goodness of God. So, let me ask you. What are you thankful for? Salvation in Jesus! The freedom to worship! The friends and loved ones God has given you. How does the hymn put it?

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Big City Dangers: Tower of Babel II

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A well-known Christian personality recently made an interesting comment. He said, “If I had it to do all over again as a parent, there is one thing I would do differently. I wouldn’t raise my children in Southern California.”

Does that surprise you? After all, Los Angeles is sunshine, beautiful beaches, Disneyland, and some of the finest schools in the country! So how could he say such a thing? Because Los Angeles also means Hollywood values, rock video role models, pornography, cults, drugs, witchcraft, gang violence, greed, and peer pressure in mega-doses that few young people are able to resist.

Of course, it isn’t Southern California only that challenges our family values and Christian faith. Today, any city of moderate size poses the same temptations. And not only for children! The same forces are at work seeking to undermine our integrity and lead us away from Jesus. Paul warned in Romans 12:2, “Do not let the world around you squeeze you into its mold.” (Phillips paraphrase)

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How powerful is this pressure to conform? e.e. cummings, the American poet and painter, wrote: “To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else, means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”

In fact, thanks to television and the internet, the smallest hamlet can now play host to big city values. But the point is, they originate in the city. 150 years ago, most Americans lived on farms and didn’t face these pressures. We were innocent and naïve. Three cheers for innocence and naïveté! But today, with 95% of our people living in cities, the pressure to conform has become almost unbearable.

In this study, we examine the causes and cures of this problem. The original cause is Babylon the Great, mother of big-city wickedness. The cure, on the other hand, is two-fold. Our duty in the short term is to separate from evil. But the final solution is God’s – the destruction of Babylon the Great. Listen carefully, then, as we read this chapter for we are about to hear four cries from heaven. The first is –

  1. The Call for Condemnation

John reports in Revelation 18:1, “After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven. He had great authority, and the earth was illuminated by His splendor. With a mighty voice he shouted: ‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’”

A. The Certainty of Babylon’s Fall

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The first fact this angel emphasizes is the judgment of Babylon the Great. This is in effect the end of Antichrist’s kingdom. Like many commentators, I find two “Babylons” revealed in Revelation 17 and 18. In chapter 17, it was “spiritual Babylon,” the false religious system that Antichrist used to unite his kingdom. But once he gained full power at the midpoint of the Tribulation, he destroyed it and took his seat in the Temple pretending to be God. That brings us to chapter 18 where political Babylon is in view. Here we are given a glimpse of the capital of Antichrist’s kingdom which will be destroyed at the end of the Tribulation. You can find evidence for these two “Babylons” in the phrase which begins Revelation 18:1. John writes, “After this (that is to say, after the events of chapter 17), I saw another angel coming down from heaven.” In other words, the events of chapter 18 follow the events of chapter 17. In chapter 17, religious Babylon is destroyed, followed by the destruction of political Babylon in chapter 18.

But someone may ask, if political Babylon is headquarters for Antichrist’s kingdom, what city is it? The passage does not say. The best we can do is piece it together from other passages of Scripture. For example, Daniel 9:27 identifies the Antichrist as the Roman prince, and since Rome was the great city in John’s day, known symbolically as Babylon (See this in 1 Peter 5:13, where referring to the church in Rome, Peter says “she who is in Babylon . . . sends you her greetings.”), it is my conclusion that the Babylon of Revelation 18 is the revitalized city of Rome, Italy. After all, how could Rome not be the capital of the revived Roman empire? Moreover, one fact is very clear. This is not the literal city of Babylon. Why not? Because, according to verse 17, this city is located near enough to the sea that the sailors can see the smoke of her burning, whereas ancient Babylon was located more than 200 miles from the sea.

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The best guess, then, come on is that this is Rome, which becomes Antichrist’s capital, but is destroyed due to her pride, her greed, her violence, and her godlessness. The reason for her judgment is given in verses two and three.

B. The Reason for Babylon’s Fall

Verse 2 says of her, “She has become a home for demons, and a haunt for every evil spirit.” In other words, she’ll look like an angel of light on the surface. She will be exciting, glamorous, and beautiful. But her appeal will come not from God, but from Lucifer who will use her glamour to blind people to the glory of Christ. That should not surprise us. The same forces are at work today. When you think of Hollywood’s grip on man’s fantasies, Las Vegas’ appeal to his passions, and San Francisco’s impact on his morals, is there any question from whom these cities get their power? If we looked beneath the surface, we’d find multitudes of unclean spirits working feverishly to keep people from even thinking about Christ.

How they are able to do this is explained in verse 3. John describes two weapons in the enemy’s arsenal: adultery and luxury. In our last study, we found that adultery is a symbol of false religion. Luxury, on the other hand, refers to the materialism which the city inspires. But then there is nothing new under the sun. In the Garden, it was the appeal of the forbidden fruit. In Gethsemane, it was the glitter of 30 silver coins. Today, it’s whatever new digital device money can buy. This is why Paul warns, “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.” (1 Timothy 6:10)

Howard Hughes is a sad example. Having become one of the world’s richest and most powerful man, he died mentally impaired and utterly alone. His scraggly beard hung down to his waist, his unkempt hair reached to the middle of his back, his fingernails were 2 inches long, and his toenails hadn’t been trimmed for so long they looked like corkscrews. Most tragic of all, when he passed out of this life, he entered a Christ-less eternity. Why? Because he loved money more than Jesus. So be careful! If you’re looking for real riches, try switching kingdoms. As Jesus said, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6: 33)

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2. The Call for Separation

In light of Babylon’s judgment, God calls for separation in verse 4. “Then I heard another voice from heaven say: ‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues.’”

A. Reasons for Separation

Two reasons are given for separation. The first is temptation. God warns His people that if they do not “come out of her,” they may “share in her sins.” Sin is nothing to fool with. Many think, “I could never be tempted by that!” only to find themselves drawn toward the very thing they claim to hate. Our daughter was quick to learn this lesson. Invited to a party at age 15, her Christian friends chose to watch a video she knew we wouldn’t approve of. So, when it became clear they weren’t going to change their minds, she called us for a ride home. That didn’t win her any points with her friends at the party, but it multiplied our trust in her, knowing that she was able and willing to stand up for her convictions even when we weren’t around.

Compare that to the well-known Christian writer who was caught in adultery. He was heard to say for years that this was the one sin he could never be tempted to commit. Why was he vulnerable to it even after years of serving Christ? Because contained within our fallen nature is the desire for every wicked the thing this world has to offer. Not until we reach heaven itself can we afford to relax. In his book, The Best Is Yet to Be, Henry Durbanville issued this warning:

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With the mind at rest regarding the past, and the heart reveling in the consciousness of being at peace with God, you may have entertained the thought that all dangers are over, and that you will have no more problems as you journey to the Better Land. But that is not so. Scripture and human biography alike testify to the fact that old age has its perils. Noah, after long years of faithful walking with God, failed ignominiously. Moses, near the close of his career lost his temper. Samuel, the man of prayer and the prophet of God, put family interests before loyalty to God and His people. Solomon began magnificently, but ended disastrously. The records of all these good men, temporarily drawn aside from the path of fellowship with God, give point and urgency to the apostle’s warning, “Let him who thinks he stands, take heed lest he fall.” The fact is that youth, adulthood, and old age – each period of life – has its own temptations and hazards.

Not only is there danger of sin, there is also the danger of judgment. To remain in Babylon will mean death for God’s people. Think of Lot in Sodom. 2 Peter 2:8 says he was “righteous,” which means his eternal salvation was secure. But had he remained in Sodom, he would’ve died with the Sodomites.

The same principle is just as true today. In your case, it may not be a city you’re asked to flee, it may be a church that no longer teaches the word of God; a romantic affair with someone who does not love the Lord Jesus; or a business partnership with someone who does not share your Christian ethics. No matter. Whatever compromising situation the Spirit calls you to leave, do it immediately and without delay! For fellowship with evil always carries within it the seeds of judgment – lost jobs, broken homes, sexual disease, even death. Don’t assume that eternal salvation will shield you from the present consequences of sin.

Many years ago, we attended the funeral of a young man who was involved in our junior high youth group. But in high school, he became involved with more “exciting” friends. After an evening of drinking, they began to chase one another in their cars at high speeds. Coming around the corner, our young Christian friend rolled his car in the ditch. He was the only one of the group who died. How happy we were to reassure his parents that he was in Heaven! But that didn’t spare him the shame nor them the pain of his needless death.

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The call for separation leads, in turn, to another warning. Verse 6 says, “God will pay her back double for what she is done.” Why? Two additional reasons are given for her judgment in verses 5 to 7.

B. The Reasons for Condemnation

The first reason is the persistence of her sin. Verse 5 says: “Her sins have reached to Heaven.” The word “reached” originally meant to put bricks together with mortar. This play on words is a reminder of the first Tower of Babel. God never forgets our sins unless they been covered by the blood of Christ. As verse 5 emphasizes, “God has remembered her crimes.” The truth is, what began at Babel with Nimrod’s rebellion has deceived mankind in every age culminating with the final wicked reign of Antichrist during the Tribulation. But God will put an end to her rebellion in this chapter, freeing the world from her sin.

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The second reason is the arrogance of her sin. Verse 7 adds: “In her heart she boasts, ‘I sit as a queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.’” Babylon is so proud of her renewed power that she can’t imagine it’ll ever end. But verse 8 says, “In one day her plagues will overtake her: death mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire for mighty is the Lord God who judges her.” Again, this is a reference to Babylon’s past, for after laying siege to the city for weeks, Cyrus the Great learned of a secret way. He diverted the course of the Euphrates River and in just one night he and the Persian army destroyed the great city.

Swollen with pride, Belshazzar, king of Babylon ordered his servants to bring the gold and silver vessels from the Temple in Jerusalem and defied the God of heaven by drinking from them at his drunken orgy. What was the result of this blasphemy? Before the night was over, God brought the city down around his ears, and Belshazzar died upon his throne. Heinrich Heine tells the story:

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Midnight came slowly sleeping on; in silent rest lay Babylon. But in the Royal Castle high, red torches gleam and courtiers cry. Belshazzar there in kingly hall is holding kingly Festival. The vassals sat in glittering line, and emptied the goblets with glowing wine. The goblets rattle, the choruses swell, and it pleased the stiff-necked monarch well. In the monarch’s cheeks a wildfire flowed, and the wine awoke his daring mood.

And onward by his madness spurred, he blasphemes the Lord with a sinful word; And he brazenly boasts, while the servile courtiers cheered and smiled. Quick the King spoke as his proud glance burned; quickly the servant went and returned. He bore on his head the vessels of gold, of Jehovah’s Temple the plunder bold. With daring hand, in his frenzy grim, the King seized a beaker filled to the brim, and drained to the dregs the sacred cup, and foaming he cried as he drank it up, “Jehovah eternal scorn I owe to Thee, I am the monarch of Babylon.

Scarce had the blasphemy rolled from his lips, ere the monarch’s heart was cold. The yelling laughter was hushed, and all was still as death in the Royal Hall. And see! And see on the white wall high the form of a hand went slowly by, and wrote – and wrote on the broad wall white, letters of fire and vanished in night. Pale as death, with a steady stare, and trembling knees, the king sat there; the horde of slaves sat shuddering chill; no word they spoke, but were deathlike still. The Magicians came, but of them none could read the flame-script on the wall. But that same night, in all his pride, by the hands of his servants Belshazzar died.

 The lesson for us? It’s as old as Proverbs 16:18. “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.”

III.             The Cry of Lamentation

In verse 9, a third voice is now heard – a cry of lamentation by three groups of people, each group deeply impacted by Babylon’s fall. The first group are –

A. The Kings of the Earth

John says in verse 9, “when the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxuries. See the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her.” The word “mourn” means to carry on weeping and wailing with no relief in sight. Why will kings be so upset? Because all the economies of the world rely on her. She will be the great financial center of Antichrist kingdom. In fact, given our global economy and the complex computer systems, tying them together, it’s not hard to see how the collapse of one great city could send the stock markets crashing and leave the governments of the world in total chaos.

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B. The Merchants of the Earth

The second group of mourners are the “merchants of the earth.” They weep not because they are sorry for their sins or they sympathize with those who perish, but because they are materialists grieving their losses. Verse 11 explains, “The merchants of the earth will weep and mourn over her because no one buys their cargoes anymore.” They’ve lost all their customers in just one day their life of the luxury will come to an end.

Even more interesting is the products they sell. John lists 28 items including, among other things: precious metals, expensive clothing, costly woods, imported food, and livestock. But the most alarming commodity is found in verse 13: “bodies and souls of men.” In John’s day, they were 50 million slaves in the Roman Empire. In fact, it wasn’t unusual for as many as 10,000 human beings to be auctioned off in one day in the slave markets of Europe. Is John saying this will happen again during the Tribulation? Yes! n today, we see an ever-increasing loss of personal liberties – large corporations exercising more and more control over their employees; higher and higher taxes, giving government control over the private sector; private ownership of land becoming rarer and rarer. It is not difficult to envision worldwide slavery under the Antichrist. We’ve already seen that no one is allowed to buy or sell without taking his mark on their bodies. Henry Morris adds another explanation in his commentary on Revelation:

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“This probably refers to the so-called ‘white-slave trade.’ The Greek word slaves is soma meaning ‘body.’ The international traffic in forced prostitution, both of men and women, is a tragic but lucrative business of modern times and will become even bigger in the evil days ahead. These vice barons are venomous not only amassing great wealth for themselves, but destroying the bodies and souls of the helpless girls and boys under their control.”

But the wealth and security of this city will not last. Proverbs 23 warns, “Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone, for they will surely sprout wings and fly off to the sky like an eagle.” That’s a fitting reminder for modern, materialistic America. For what’s pictured on the back of the good old American dollar? An eagle with wings stretched out ready to fly out of our wallets. No matter how hard we try, we can’t buy security. The tighter we cling to what we have, the harder the fall when it is ripped away. And that happens here. In one day all the riches of the wicked are burned up, plunging them into inconsolable grief.

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C. The Sailors and Ship Owners of the Earth

The third group of mourners are the ship owners. Like the merchants, they will be ruined by Babylon’s fall. In fact, this judgment will lead to skyrocketing unemployment around the world. For in verse 17, it is not just the ship owners who mourn; it’s also their employees – the sailors. The verse says, “Every sea captain, and all who travel by ship, the sailors and, and all who earn their living from the sea, will stand far off. When they see the smoke of her burning, they will exclaim . . .Oh great city where all who had ships on the sea became rich through her wealth! In one hour she has been brought to ruin.”

4. The Cry of Celebration

While Earth is grieving, Heaven is rejoicing at the fall of this great city. Notice two facts John emphasizes about her judgment in verses 23 and 24.

A. The Rightness of God’s Judgment

Verse 23 reminds us that this is no ordinary city that is being judged. It is the Great Harlot who deceives “all nations” with her magic spells. That is to say, she deserves everything she gets and more. Her judgment will also be total and complete. Six times the King James version uses the phrase no more – no more music, no more craftsmen, no more grinding, no more marrying, no more trading, and no more light. It reminds me of Bill Gaither’s song:

“The Marketplace is empty, no more traffic in the streets; All the builder’s tools are silent, no more time to harvest wheat; Busy housewives cease their labors, in the courtroom no debate; Work on earth is all suspended as the King comes through the gate. Oh, the King is coming, the King is coming! I just heard the trumpet sounding, and now His face I see. Oh, the King is coming, the King is coming! Praise God! He’s coming for me.”

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 B. The Reasons for God’s Judgment

Someone may wonder, how can a Christian rejoice at this judgment? After all, didn’t Jesus tell us to love our enemies? Yes, but given the evil this city has caused, it’s only right to be glad about its destruction. Verse 24 says this is the city in which “was found the blood of prophets and the saints, and of all who have been killed on the earth.” Our joy doesn’t come from the pain of those being judged; it comes from the fact that justice is being carried out. It’s the relief we may feel at the execution of a Ted Bundy or Wesley Allen Dodd. God doesn’t want anyone to perish. That’s why He has delayed His judgment so long. But when we realize this city can no longer hurt anyone, how can we not be glad? This is why God commands us to come out of her and rejoice at her destruction.

C. The Danger of Compromise

Have you heard of the friendship that exists between two little creatures living off Australia’s Great Barrier Reef? One is the sea anemone, a little animal with a tubular body and a circle of tentacles. The other is the clown fish which attracts bigger fish to the anemone by darting in and hiding among its poison tentacles. The anemone immobilizes and devours all intruders except the clown fish which enjoys temporary immunity to its poison. Sadly, with time it too grows weak and loses its immunity. That’s when the tentacles close in on it as well.

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That is a picture of the Christian who ignores the danger of this present world system – a system born and bred in Babylon. Her charms are so inviting many forget that within her walls are heartache, sorrow, and death. But you don’t need to be fooled by her. You and I can remember who inspires these temptations and where she is in inevitably headed. Babylon the Great is falling, is falling! And when she does, “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men will never put her together again.” Praise his name forever!

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