Revelation 19

This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on November 22nd, 2009.  To listen to the audio of this sermon, just click on this link – Rev 19A.

Revelation 19:1-10   —   THE WEDDING SUPPER OF THE LAMB

We have just finished Rev.17 &18 – the judgment of Babylon the Great.   We talked about the picture of the Great Prostitute/ City as a picture of a restless city that offers rest but only increases our restlessness – and as a picture of the attachments of worldliness that we struggle against.  Revelation 18 ends with the destruction of the great city.   We talked about how God is breaking – and calling us to break (2-way dynamic) – our attachments to the Great City.  We saw how God will utterly destroy the temptations of worldliness and lust/covetousness that oppress us.

Here, in Ch.19, we have come to the great celebration because the Prostitute has been destroyed.  But something else is happening here… the final destruction of the Great Prostitute leads to a meal – the Wedding Supper of the Lamb – and this is what we want to look at this morning.

Join in the Great Thanksgiving of Heaven.

Good Shouting:    After this I heard what sounded like the roar of a great multitude in heaven shouting:   “Hallelujah!   …  And again they shouted: “Hallelujah!

Generally, we think of shouting as a bad thing – it’s noisy or it’s angry – but this shouting is full of joy, relief, amazed excitement – (vs.1,4 &6).   These are shouts of thanksgiving that pour out of the multitude in heaven.  And why?   Aren’t they already in heaven?   Yes!  but  the words they shout explain their joy…

~ They are words that celebrate Rescue –   Salvation and glory and power belong to our God…   All of these words point to the idea of rescue.   God has saved or rescued his people from the destruction and temptation of the Great Prostitute – because he – not we – was powerful – and therefore he should receive glory.  Those who stand in heaven – and we have seen this several times already in Revelation – recognize that they were rescued – saved = rescued – and that God enabled them to overcome.

~ They are Words that Celebrate Restoration – … for true and just are his judgments.   He has condemned the great prostitute who corrupted the earth by her adulteries.  He has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”    But also, they are shouting because they are looking at God’s judgment and they are amazed – they are compelled to shout out their agreement with the justice of God’s judgment (see. Rev.15).  They see that God has condemned and removed the restlessness and temptation that corrupts the earth – and they are overwhelmed with joy.

Even the elders and creatures who surround the throne of God are overwhelmed with the restoration of Creation  – that God has made all things right – so that  they fall down off their thrones and worship.

We Should Shout:     Then a voice came from the throne, saying: “Praise our God,  all you his servants, you who fear him, both small and great!”   What does it mean to shout?   We are looking at a victorious battle scene.  Fighting takes effort – your emotions run high.  You can’t fight a battle in a calm state, rather you bare all your emotion and spend all your effort.  These have come out of the Great Battle with the Prostitute.  They have fought and Christ has come and delivered them – and seeing this they let out a great shout of joy and relief and thanks.

Consequently, then, to shout means to give thanks fully engaged – like you would be in a fight – and sometimes it is a fight.   We are in the fight right now.   We can shout out our thankfulness to God because we have just been shown that he is going to rescue us.  How inappropriate would it be for us, seeing this amazing deliverance, to give polite applause?    We need to fight – to shake ourselves free of apathy and doubt and fear and accusations and to take ourselves in hand and wake up and give thanks.   We need to speak passionately to the Lord and to pour out our hearts in thanksgiving.

Why?  Because giving thanks in a lively, rejoicing manner changes the way we look at our circumstances and engages our faith and awakens us and edifies us by putting us in a new frame of mind.    Shouting our thanks breaks the apathy and fear and doubt that plague us.   When we shout about what we are truly thankful for – we are not merely closing our eyes to doubts and fears – we are overcoming them and choosing to believe in the goodness and promises of God instead.

Make Yourself Ready.

Make Yourself Ready – Like a Bride:   “Hallelujah!  For our Lord God Almighty reigns.   Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory!   For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready.   Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.”  (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.)

Notice the complexity of this picture – in which the bride both makes herself ready – but also is given the gift of the wedding dress.   This is a picture of righteousness – a picture that explains for us the relationship between what theologians call sanctification (actually becoming a godly person) and justification (being declared righteous by God through Christ).

How does a bride get ready for her wedding?   She puts on her dress.  The dress is a gift – but also, in this picture, the bride has had a hand in making the dress.   How is that possible?

We put on the righteousness of Jesus by faith – we do this by believing that his righteousness is ours – is a gift given to us.  We trust in that righteousness to make us more than right before God – forgiven, loved and delighted in.

Only then, as we do this, are our hearts and actions are changed.   Only then do we begin the process of becoming like Jesus – after we have believed.   We put it on by faith now – but here at this celebration, the bride is given the actual dress – the actual righteousness.  This is a picture of our hearts being remade to be without rebellion and sin and corruption.

We Will Be Joined to Christ Like a Bride:   The picture of marriage captures what is going on here.   We have been and are now incomplete because we were meant to live in the presence of God – but we are physically separate from Him.   But we are the bride of Christ and when we are joined to him – we will be changed – made into new people – fully redeemed!

Look Forward to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb.

The Wedding Supper of the Lamb is Our Hope:   Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

What are we making ready for?   As the bride of Christ, we are making ready for the Wedding Supper of the Lamb.   Only the bride is invited to that supper.    And what is the Wedding Supper of the Lamb?   Isaiah 25 describes this supper (read Is.25:1-9 ).

~ It is The Meal that will Finally Satisfy us6 On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines.   First of all, notice the description of this food in contrast to the cup of abominable adultery that the prostitute offers.   Here and throughout scripture, the image of wine is a picture of joy and rejoicing.  God will prepare a feast of joy for all who are his bride.  Not the quickly passing party happiness that we enjoy now – but something that is lasting, delightful and that will complete us.

In the same way, the picture of the best of meats is a picture of satisfaction and contentment – not merely the feeling of being full, but rather a completeness that will satisfy us down to our souls.

~ It is The Meal that will Swallow Up Our Death and Disgrace – The Wedding Supper of the Lamb will be a Banquet of Life.   We use these terms because what God has prepared is so far beyond what we have ever experienced that we, in our limited way, are only able to understand dimly through these images.   However, the covering or shroud – which is to say, the suffocating mortality that we live with – which both is killing us and giving evidence that we are broken and guilty – will be swallowed up or removed or destroyed by God.  This is the meal that will release us into the freedom and life we were always meant to have.

~ It is The Meal that will Finally Reward our Trust and Faith – look at the words that echo Rev.19 and the song of Rev.15:3-4 –   In that day they will say, “Surely this is our God;  we trusted in him, and he saved us.   This is the LORD, we trusted in him;  let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

Or to translate – we will say, “It was all true!   We trusted God to free us from death and to remove our sin and to bring us life like we had never known it – and God kept his word.

What does it mean to look forward to these things?  How do we look forward?   We anticipate – set our schedules and plans around what is coming.  We let our minds dwell on what it  might  be like.  We let the idea of the trip fill our horizon – we are even impatient for it.

This sounds a lot like Paul in Philippians.  He sounds out of his mind when he says – I guess it is better to live and remain with you, but I am much more excited about dying and going to be with the Lord.  But his anticipation is an act of faith.  To look forward is to believe and to set your hope in and to long for.  The Wedding Supper of the Lamb shows us what to long for – to look forward to – to hope for.

—————-

This sermon was preached at Peace Hill Christian Fellowship on January 17th, 2010.  To listen to the audio of this sermon, just click on this link – Rev 19B.

Revelation 19:11-21    —     SPIRITUAL WARFARE

We have been saying that Revelation is picturing itself as the great Exodus of the church.  This morning we come to an image of warfare which,  like most of the other images in Revelation – takes an OT passage (Josh.5:13ff) and expands on it.  The White Rider is the Captain/General of the Lord’s armies.  Revelation expands to say more about who he is than Joshua did.

But surprisingly, we aren’t shown much of a battle scene  Not much is said about what the battle looks like.  Why?  Because you are living it right now.  This great battle is not a matter of tanks and weapons of mass destruction – but rather it is a matter of following our Captain/General… Rev. picks up this image of the Commander of the Lord’s army just before the last chapters when John describes the New  Jerusalem -the heavenly city.

The picture is a call to spiritual warfare – suggesting that entrance into the promised land is a conquest – like the conquest of Canaan – through the power of the White Rider.   Except this conquest is no coercion – it is a different, redefined kind of conquest.   We do not earn heaven by fighting for it, but there is clearly the suggestion that we are active, not passive, in the power of God.  This passage by describing who the White Rider is – gives us a very practical guide to Spiritual Warfare.

Interestingly, the commander of the Lord’s armies is named 3 separate times with 3 different names.   We are also told that no one knows his name, so that right away there are hints that this is a highly symbolic picture of Christ.

 

1st Name:  Faithful and True – vs.11-13a.

God is the True Judge – Warfare is Facing Our Sin Before God:   The first name given to the rider is “Faithful and True” (see Rev.1:5).   The meaning of this name is described in the following verses.   He is faithful to judge and to make war.  But this sounds like a strange thing to say… How is making war an act of faithfulness?   We think in terms of making war against people and nations – but the White Rider makes war against sin.

With his blazing eyes he sees and exposes sin.   And this is an act of faithfulness because sin is what destroys us – but the White Rider is faithful and true to confront our sin.    In the same way, the crowns, which are a symbol of authority give him absolute authority to judge sin – so that what he sees about me – the judgment that God makes about me – is true.  God sees that I was made to be noble – in his image – glorious – but that I am fallen.   God sees that when i am either willfully evil and disobedient, or foolishly ignorant, thoughtless or negligent  – that i am failing to be the glorious one I am called to be.

God alone has the authority and ability to see who I am (burning eyes) and to say who I am (crowns).   God is rightfully my ruler – and I am the rebel.   I have nowhere to hide – no way to excuse myself

Spiritual warfare, then, begins with the faithful and true God confronting me and with my willingness to face my own sin.   God makes war against sin in us because he is faithful.

God is The Faithful Ruler – Warfare is Giving Up Our Will to God:  Name that no one knows.  Secondly, the Rider who is called Faithful and True has a name that no one knows.  What does that mean?

In the ancient world the gods could be manipulated by priests if the priest knew the name of the god.  To know the god’s name was to have power over him.   In essence, then, the Faithful and True God cannot be manipulated or used.

God is God and we are not.   So spiritual warfare is the battle against our human desire to make God serve us.  We want God to do for us what we want him to do -we want God to be useable. But God is not useable – but he is faithful.   God has his plan to bless and do us good in his way – according to his understanding of what we need.  And spiritual warfare is recognizing and coming to terms with God as God in my life – to be willing to follow God for God’s own purposes – and not mine.  We are in a spiritual struggle to give up our will – to turn from willfulness and sin – and to be  used for God;s purposes.

God is the Faithful Sacrifice – Warfare is Accepting God’s Atonement:   God is faithful and true in this battle that he fights, in a sense against us.   He is faithful to expose our sin – to confront us with the truth of who we are – to confront our willfulness – and to provide for us the only means and answer to our willfulness and sin – His Sacrifice.

The robe dipped in blood points to the cross.  God makes war against us by spilling his own blood.   This spiritual warfare – this conquest of sin in us is the battle that we fight – that our Commander is faithful to fight for us.   Spiritual warfare, then,  is about accepting this one true sacrifice rather than trying to excuse sin, trying to atone for it ourselves.   The battle is about receiving and holding onto the sacrifice of Christ.

 

2nd Name:  The Word of God vs.13b-15.

God is the Word that Influences Us – Warfare is Responding to the Word:   Again the White Rider is named.  This time he is called the Word of God – and again the following verses spell out what is meant by the name.

Notice that the armies of heaven follow him -they are not coercing other people like armies do – rather they are following.  That doesn’t sound like a typical army – but here they are an army fighting sin and struggling to follow Jesus.   They are riding on white horses – picture of divine strengthening.  They are  wearing fine, clean washed linen – (see Rev.19:8) – the righteous acts of the saints – their response to the word of God – their obedience.

Spiritual warfare, then, is all about being transformed by the Word of God – by Jesus, who is called the Word – and by the Scriptures.   We battle against complacency – against falling asleep spiritually – against apathy.   We tend to think of our unresponsiveness to the word as a mere lack of discipline – but there is more going on – hearing the word and responding to it is an act of warfare – a spiritual battle – a wrestling with God.

God is the Word that Convicts and Judges – Warfare is Using the Word to Point Others to Christ:  The Commander of the Lord’s armies in Joshua has a drawn sword – presumably for the conquest of Canaan.  But here the sword is coming out of his mouth and it is used to strike the nations – to rule them with an iron scepter (see Ps.2).

This language sounds very violent and coercive – what does it mean?    It means that  the word of God has a powerful influence not only over those who believe – but over those who do not believe.

Psalm 2 talks about how the nations rage against God and want to throw off his rule.  But, says the Psalm, God laughs at them  – and God will rule them with an iron scepter.  That Psalm connected with this image suggests that God’s word cuts to the heart even those who rage against God.

Spiritual warfare, then, is bringing God’s word into conversations with unbelieving friends when we discussions begin to go beyond surface issues like the weather.  God wants to and will use his word to bring powerful conviction on the hearts of those who are far from him.

 

3rd Name – King of Kings and Lord of Lords – vs.16-21.

God Taunts/ Warns those Opposed to Him – Warfare is Warning the Wicked:   The third name given to God is written on his robe and thigh – “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”.  At this point the description moves away from what the White Rider looks like and turns to focus on what he is doing.

An Angel appears and cries to birds to gather for the “Great supper of God”.   In stark contrast to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb – this is not a good thing.  Birds are an evil image in Scripture – they eat the flesh of the dead.  So what is going on here?

In the ancient world, armies used to taunt one another before battle  – making threats  about what they were going to do to their enemies.   Here, the Angel is warning those opposed to God that they are going to be destroyed.  The taunt is made before the battle so that the opposing army may come to terms if they will.

The image here again says something about spiritual warfare.  Spiritual Warfare involves warning.  We should warn those who are far from God and who are opposed to him to come to terms with him before they are destroyed – to surrender and submit and  become his followers.  God is faithful and true and will make war against our sin.  God will convict us with his Word.  But God is also King of Kings and Lord of Lords – and he will ultimately judge evil and unrepentance.   We cannot hide this fact from people.

God Takes Captive the Powers Opposed to Him – Warfare is Trusting God to Overcome Evil in this World – Spiritual Powers that sway the world.   The passage here ends with God destroying the Beast and False Prophet – and killing their followers – leaving their bodies to the birds (a dishonorable end – which also suggests that they die cursed).

This picture of spiritual warfare ends with God overcoming the evil that is set against him without a battle scene.   He takes captive the spiritual forces set against him and finally judges the root of spiritual evil that leads the whole world astray.

Spiritual warfare, then, is believing that God will root out evil that leads the world astray – that he will judge and set all things right.

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