Mercy and Punishment
Revelation 14:1-20 , Revelation 15:1-8 , Revelation 16:1-21
As we open our study on three chapters in Revelation, we find various scenes in chapter fourteen which we wish to present, by way of introduction.
1. We have one hundred and forty-four thousand redeemed from the earth. The chapter opens with the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, with Him were the one hundred and forty-four thousand. If these one hundred and forty-four thousand are the same as the sealed of Israel, in chapter seven, then it is wonderful to us to find so large a group of redeemed from among God's chosen nation, standing by the lamb, the Son of God, whom Israel from the days of the crucifixion until this hour, have rejected, repudiated, and despised. Now, however, their eyes are opened, and they have seen Him, and believed in Him. Indeed, all Heaven is rejoicing in the presence of the Father, and sounding their harps as they sing a new song.
These who are with the Lamb are undefiled. They followed the Lord mid the throes of tribulation on earth, and now they follow Him whithersoever He goeth.
2. An angel with the everlasting Gospel. Here is the second scene of chapter fourteen. This angel is preaching this everlasting Gospel to them that dwell on the earth. In every age and in every clime God has always had His messengers. During the tribulation the Word will be preached by the one hundred and forty-four thousand. It will also be preached by the two witnesses, and by others.
These, however, will not be enough mid the strenuous times. Thus God, once more, sends forth His angels, and one of them Is seen preaching the Everlasting Gospel to every nation, tongue, and kindred upon the earth.
The purport of this Gospel is thus expressed; "Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made Heaven, and the earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters."
3. The second angel appears on the scene. He is saying, "Babylon Is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication." The story of the fall of Babylon is given in detail in chapter eighteen. This will be considered in a later sermon.
4. A third angel follows the second with a great warning. We must remember that at the sounding of the seventh trumpet all Heaven saw the Lord's kingdom about to be set up. We are, therefore, now considering certain scenes which are in the end of the period of The Great Tribulation.
Before the Lord comes these angels follow fast, upon one another, giving final calls to the peoples of the earth. God would not destroy man until He gives one great, last and loud call of warning. Here are the words of the third angel: "If any man worship the beast, and his image and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, the same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of His indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb."
So it is that earth's people are in a strait betwixt two. On one hand is the antichrist and his lords of estate meeting physical death if they do not receive the mark of the beast, and if they do not worship his image. On the other hand, God is warning them that if they do these things, they shall have eternal hell.
There are some who may imagine that this is all figurative, that there is no fire and brimstone. It does not matter what you or I think, that is what God says. Verse eleven adds, "And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name."
5. A final voice from Heaven. No doubt there will be many who will, because of this voice of the angel, refuse to follow the antichrist. God therefore sounds forth a note from Heaven saying, "Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they might rest from their labors; and their works do follow them." In all of this may be found the patience of the saints, and of those that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. They bent their backs to the stripes of those who hate them; they paid for their faith with their blood, and now they rest from their labors.
I. THE HARVEST OF THE EARTH IS RIPE (Revelation 14:14-16 )
We now come into the discussion of the very end of the present age world conditions.
1. The vision of the Son of Man. John beheld Him upon the cloud. "Having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle." Perhaps the cloud, upon which He sat, is that same Shekinah Glory cloud in which He is to descend to the earth. We read of that descent in chapter nineteen of this book. He comes with golden crown because He is now taking upon Him His kingly throne. He has in His hand the sharp sickle, because His coming is one of judgment, and of reaping.
2. The vision of an angel, crying unto the Son of Man. "Thrust in Thy sickle, and reap; for the time is come for thee to reap." When we think of reaping, we think of a harvest that is ripe. That is the statement here. Could words be more expressive of present world conditions? The grain of the earth is already drooping its head. Its color bespeaks its ripening unto the harvest.
The age in which we live is divinely called, man's day. Man has gone on plying with his own genius in every realm of earth life. We are having many expositions just now; there is a world's fair in San Francisco; there is a world's fair in New York City. These seem to be extending their hands to the big throbbing world, and saying, "Come, and see! Behold what man has wrought!" He who goes returns amazed at world progress. Every kind of invention seems to have reached its zenith.
When we think of the world as it was in our own boyhood, fifty and sixty years ago, and as it is at this moment, we stand amazed. In our own remembrance the automobile, the telephone, the wireless, the airship, the electric light, and many other things have not only come in, but have been perfected. All of this grandeur in the line of invention, is climaxed only by a world ripened in iniquity, in sin, and in shame.
Do you marvel, therefore, in our chapter that we read, "The harvest of the earth is ripe"? There is no doubt about it, everything that is high and lifted up against God and His glory, is to be cut down, and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
We seriously doubt if some of the things that mark the present age as so attractive, will be allowed under the reign of Christ. The Bible says that during Christ's reign the children will play in the streets; they certainly are not safe there today.
II. THE HARVESTING OF THE VINTAGE (Revelation 14:16-20 )
After the harvest of the earth is reaped, another angel came out of the temple which is in Heaven. He also had a sharp sickle. As he stood there, a second angel appeared from the altar. He had power over fire. He cried with a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, saying, "Thrust in thy sharp sickle, and gather the clusters of the vine of the earth; for her grapes are fully ripe." Then the angel thrust in his sickle and he gathered the vine of the earth, "And cast it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden without the city, and blood came out of the winepress, even unto the horse bridles, by the space of a thousand and six hundred furlongs."
1. God's judgments are upon Jew, as well as Gentile. The truth is, the tribulation period is known in the Bible as the day of Jacob's Trouble. God has chastened the Jew from that day in which he ruthlessly cried, "His blood be on us and on our children."
At this hour the Jew is in great stress, and there is no relief in sight. Many are trying to get into Palestine, they are, however, doomed. Jonah entered a ship at Joppa, going to Tarsus, however he got into a storm, then into a whale's belly. Israel will do no better. To go into Jerusalem now, is only going into the very lions' den. The nations are helping forward the affliction of God's chosen people.
2. The Jews are the vine of the earth. This is the story of the eightieth Psalm, of Isaiah twenty-seven, and of Ezekiel fifteen; and is referred to in John fifteen. God will cast Israel into the wine press of His wrath, as He was, of old, crucified outside the city, so will God's wine press be trodden outside the same city.
3. A final glorious deliverance. In the chapters which we have noted above, where Israel is the vine, God does not leave His people to be wholly destroyed. In Psalm eighty we read of Israel being burned by fire, and cut down and perishing at the rebuke of His countenance. However, immediately, the picture is changed and this prophecy follows: "Let thy hand be upon the man of thy right hand, upon the Son of Man whom thou madest strong for thyself." Then Israel cries, "Quicken us and we will call upon Thy name. Turn us again, * * cause Thy face to shine; and we shall be saved." The same thing in effect is given in Isaiah twenty-seven. "He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit."
III. A VISION OF THE OVERCOMERS (Revelation 15:2-4 )
We called this sermon, "Mercy and Judgment." To us it is most wonderful to study the book of Revelation, and to discover throughout that in wrath, God remembers mercy. Is it not remarkable? As we turn our faces earthward we behold tribulation and anguish under the throes of fiery indignation and wrath. Then, we turn our faces heavenward and we hear paeans of praise, shouts of victory.
On the earth, men are blaspheming God; in the Heavens, they are giving glory to His name. On the earth is blood, and fire, thunders, and earthquakes; above, the saints rest in the Lord.
1. The story of earth's victors. Verse two tells us of those who have gotten the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name." The people on the earth never dreamed that they had gotten any victory. All their eyes beheld were the dead bodies, the wan faces, the beaten backs of saints, with their hair clodded with blood.
All they beheld were men and women slain, and their bodies thrust into hastily made graves for burial, or else cremated anything, to get rid of them. John, however, saw not alone their bodies in death; he saw them standing on a sea of glass, having the harps of God in their hands. Think you that if they had their lives to live over again, that they would not again refuse to follow the antichrist? They surely would.
2. The song of the victors. Verse three says, "They sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb." The song of Moses was the song of deliverance. The song of the Lamb, was the song of the Deliverer. Here are the words of their song. "Great and marvelous are Thy works, Lord God Almighty, just and true are Thy ways, thou King of saints."
There was not one word of complaint, because of their martyrdom, not a word of regret. Their lips were filled only with praise, and with worship. They cried out: "For all nations shall come and worship before Thee, for Thy judgments are made manifest." These martyr victims fully realized that out of the carnage of the Tribulation judgment, the earth would learn righteousness.
IV. THE GOD OF MERCY IS THE GOD OF JUDGMENT AND WRATH (Revelation 15:5-8 )
1. The vision of the Temple of the Tabernacle of the Testimony . John saw in Heaven this marvelous temple of the tabernacle. He saw it open. We all know that the Tabernacle of the Testimony was typical of Christ, throughout. It stood for redemption through the. blood of the slain Lamb. It stood for fellowship with God, for the light of Heaven, that shines upon the pathway of saints. It stood for the bread of life. It stood for everything that had to do with the Cross, the risen, living Lord, and His high priestly work.
You remember in the building of this Tabernacle, that God commanded Moses to build it according to the pattern showed him in the mount, and Moses did as God commanded. The facsimile of that temple, so significant in its testimony, stood open in heaven.
2. The vision of seven angels coming out of the temple. These angels came, "Having the seven plagues." They were clothed in pure and white linen, and their breasts were girded with golden girdles. As they stepped forward, one of the four living ones gave unto the seven angels "seven golden vials full of the wrath of God, who liveth for ever and ever."
Then, "The temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple till the seven plagues, of the seven angels were fulfilled."
The words we have quoted are so majestic, and, withal, so solemn.
It is impossible to separate God's judgments and wrath, from His love and His holiness and His power. We showed you how the earthly Temple of the Tabernacle, which was a replica of the one in Heaven, stood for salvation and everything that accompanies it. It was throughout typical of Christ and His redemption. Now, we behold that from that very temple, mid the glory of God and the manifestations of His power, priestly angels clothed in white, stand ready to pour out the vials of the wrath of God.
Wrath has always been linked with mercy. Let us consider John 3:16 . The verse is resplendent with the love of God. It tells of how God so loved, that He gave His only begotten Son. It bespeaks a possible, and a willing Saviour. Clothed, however, with this wonderful raiment of love, and proffered salvation, is that solemn, yea, terrifying word "perish." Those who believe in the Lamb perish not, but on the others the wrath of God remaineth. As the angels go their way to pour out the vials of wrath they seem to be saying, "Had you entered into the Temple of Testimony you would have been saved from wrath to come. However, you spurned His love, His redemptive grace, and now wrath remaineth."
V. THE VIALS OF THE WRATH OF GOD (Revelation 16:1-9 )
1. The first vial noisome and grievous sores upon men. Verse two tells the story. The angel, one of seven, beautiful in white, having come out of the temple in Heaven, pours out his vial upon the earth. Immediately, "There fell a noisome and grievous sore upon the men which had the mark of the beast, and upon them which worshipped his image." We do not know what the noisome sore was. The Greek word is "Kakos." It suggests something very bad. It is used concerning every form of evil, whether moral or physical. It was also grievous, it gave pain.
2. The second vial was poured upon the sea. As it came, the sea was as the blood of a dead man, and every living soul died upon the sea.
3. The third vial was poured upon the rivers and fountains of water and they became as blood.
4. The fourth vial was poured out upon the sun; "And power was given unto him to scorch men with fire." We pause for a moment to think of these first four vials out of the seven final judgments. As they were enacted, one angel cried out, "Thou art righteous. O Lord, which art, and wast, and shalt be, because Thou hast judged us." Perhaps it is difficult for us to comprehend the God of love, pouring out such vials of wrath; yet, God's angel said, "Thou art righteous, O Lord."
Then the angel added, "They have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink."
Then another angel, of the altar (no doubt the brazen altar of sacrifice) said, "Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Thy judgments."
If we would criticize God for His judgments, why then do we thank Him for His judgments which fell upon Christ when He gave His soul to be made an offering for our sin. God's attitude toward the men who reject that Cross and follow after the antichrist, is no different than His judgment upon the Christ, when He was made sin for us. You would have thought that men would have repented, especially when they were scorched with the heat of the sun. Yet. they repented not. but blasphemed the name of God.
VI. THE VIALS OF THE WRATH OF GOD CONTINUED (Revelation 16:10-16 )
1. The fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast. The result, was that the kingdom of the antichrist was full of darkness, "and they gnawed their tongues for pain." Then men blasphemed the God of Heaven, because of their pains and their sores. However, they repented not of their deeds.
Let no one try to spiritualize all of the judgments of God as the vials are poured forth. You can no more spiritualize these things, than you can spiritualize the plagues in the land of Egypt. The plagues there were literal, these are the same. Another thing to be observed is that the plagues in the olden times, in Egypt, only caused Pharaoh to harden his heart the more. They repented not, neither do the men who are before us in this Scripture, repent.
2. The sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates. We have stood by this river. It is a great river. When we were there, fresh waters in great volumes went quietly flowing on their way. Now, however, the water thereof, is dried up, that the way of the king of the east might be prepared.
As John looked, he saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. Here is the devilish trinity. They are combining together in one last effort to counteract the judgments of the Almighty.
These unclean spirits, which they sent forth, are the spirits of demons, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth, and of the whole world, to gather them together to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Thus, Armageddon is at hand. The stage of the final great war is set.
Armageddon now stands before us as Satan's final effort to battle against God. The devilish trinity is to face, the divine trinity.
As the armies are gathered together, we can almost hear a whisper from Heaven. It is God who is holding the nations in derision. He is laughing at them in His sore displeasure. Thus, He says (read verse fifteen) "Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame." Thus, while the battle is set on earth so it will be that the battle is set in Heaven. The great conflict is described in detail in chapter nineteen.
VII. THE SEVENTH OR THE LAST VIAL POURED OUT INTO THE AIR (Revelation 16:17-21 )
It may be that some of you are asking this question: When the seventh trumpet sounded, in Revelation 11:15, was it not announced that the time of the kingdom had arrived? That is true. However, within, as it were, the sounding of that seventh trumpet, there were hidden away these seven vials, which we can safely assert will be followed in rapid succession one after the other. They are God's final judgments completed. They tell the story of what will happen upon the earth immediately following the enunciation of the king.
The seventh vial, which is now before us, is quite similar to the seventh seal. There, in chapter six, when the sixth seal was broken, we seem to be approaching the very end. There was a great earthquake, the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood, the stars of the Heaven fell unto the earth, the Heaven departed as a scroll rolled together. The kings of the earth, and the great men, the chief captains, and the mighty men, hid themselves in the dens of the rocks of the mighty mountains saying the great day of His wrath has come. And the great day of His wrath had come.
When, however, the seventh seal was broken, immediately the seven angels began to blow their trumpets. Then, following the seventh seal, came the pouring out of the vials. Perhaps you have looked at a house from one angle, and then moved over and looked at the same house from another angle. In the seals and the trumpets God seems to be giving different aspects of the same scenes upon earth.
In the vials, however, God is giving us only the picture of the very last scenes. The trumpets and the seals cover a larger picture than the vials, but the seventh seal, and the seventh trumpet, and the seventh vial, appear to us to be all placed at the very end.
Let us now give the description that marks the very onset of Armageddon, "And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great. And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell: and great Babylon came in remembrance before God, to give unto her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of his wrath. And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found. And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great.
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Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Revelation 16". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
Second Sunday after Epiphany