King of Kings and Lord of Lords

As North Americans we may be fascinated with British royalty when it involves princesses, princes, and weddings, but we have a history of being less appreciative of kings. On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress adopted a declaration, which alleged: “The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.” Included in the list that follows was, “He has erected a multitude of new offices, and sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.” One might wonder what the members of that Congress would have thought of our present Federal bureaucracy in comparison to the one that triggered their war, but I digress. Although Independence Day is this week, this morning’s message is not about that event. Rather, it is about the great, final battle fought by the King of kings, as recorded in Revelation 19:11–21. Our history may make it difficult to appreciate the importance of a true king, but both Lewis and Tolkien, with strong Christian roots, make clear in their fiction that for things to go right, the true king needs to be on the throne: sons of Adam and daughters of Eve on the four thrones in Cair Paravel, and Aragon in Minas Tirith, the capital of Gondor. Continue reading “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”

A Wedding Invitation

An invitation to a wedding is important. Revelation 19:1–10 extends a wedding invitation to you, but not just a wedding invitation. It is combined with shouts of triumph and a wonderful, celebratory feast.

Shout “Hallelujah”! Praise contrasts with the woes of judgment. Revelation 18 has been unpleasant, even grim. God has wreaked judgment on the prostitute, Babylon, the symbolic representation of the forces who have been opposing God and persecuting the church. But the justice of God cannot tolerate rebellion. God will not allow those who have been persecuting his church to go unpunished. “Woe” is used repeatedly in Revelation 18 as those who have shared in the sins of Babylon and who have been seduced by her, mourn over her destruction—because it will also be their destruction. In contrast with the “woes” of Revelation 18, listen to the repeated shouts of “Hallelujah!” in Revelation 19. This shout comes from a great multitude, reminding you of Revelation 7:9. Continue reading “A Wedding Invitation”


Exit signs can be crucially important. They mark a way to escape danger. Revelation 18:4–8 is a call to leave Babylon as it faces destruction.

Judgment is coming. Judgment is richly deserved. The voice of a mighty angel had announce the fall of Babylon, language taken from Isaiah 13:21,22. Isaiah was speaking to Judah at a time when it was being tempted to seek an alliance with Babylon as Judah was being threatened by Assyria. Isaiah foretold the fall of Babylon as a warning of its unreliability. God’s people were to put their trust in him, not in the powers of human kingdoms. Babylon, the name of a city, is the name on the forehead of the woman in scarlet in Revelation 17. She represents not just Rome, but all idolatrous, rebellious mankind. Just as ancient Babylon had been cruel, so the Babylon of John’s day—Rome—had persecuted the church. The blood of the martyrs is one reason that God brings this judgment. Rebellion against God takes the form of persecution of his people. Dennis Johnson describes “the sky-high compost pillar of her sins.” The reference to “double” does not mean twice as much as is deserved. Rather, its force is that the judgment is proportional. It is an image, a reflection of the sin. Continue reading “EXIT!”

A Mysterious Name and a Battle with the Lamb

Is there anything that can still astound you? John has described some very unusual things—but astonishment is his reaction at what he sees in Revelation 17. He shows you something of which you need to beware, but also assures you of the outcome.

Beware of the woman sitting on the scarlet beast. The wicked woman is contrasted with the woman pictured in Revelation 12 and the one in Revelation 21. She is both attractive, dressed in purple and scarlet, adorned with jewelry, and horribly repulsive, because of her sinfulness and her persecution of the saints. The fact that the woman has the name of a city, Babylon, written on her forehead clues you in to realizing that this is representative, symbolic language. Babylon, a city long since destroyed, brings to mind the rebellion against God that took place at the tower of Babel. It is a representation of the powerful kingdom in which Daniel was a captive, and which he prophesied would be destroyed. It is the kingdom from which Nebuchadnezzar was removed for a time because of his prideful boasting (Daniel 4). Her name is mysterious, in part because the woman here in Revelation 17 is contrasted with the symbolic woman of Revelation 12. That regal lady, about to give birth, represents the church, from whom the Messiah would come. When the dragon fails to devour him, he turns against the woman and her children, but they flee to the wilderness and the Lord preserves them. The woman of Revelation 17 contrasts also with the glorious woman of Revelation 21, the bride of the Lamb, who is coming down out of heaven. She is the new Jerusalem, a magnificent city, where God dwells with his people. “Since the woman in ch. 12 and the bride in chs. 19 and 21 represent the church throughout the ages, so the harlot counterpart represents satanically infused economic-religious institutions throughout history.” (G. K. Beale, The Book of Revelation, p. 859). Continue reading “A Mysterious Name and a Battle with the Lamb”

Don’t Refuse to Repent!

A movie may start out in the present, then flash back to an earlier time. It may focus on one character, then present the same event from the perspective of someone else. It may focus in on some object that carries deep symbolism for the narrative. Revelation 16 is not a movie—but it does picture God’s activity in various scenes using symbolism that summons you to repent.

God pours out his bowls of wrath. The bowls present various episodes of God’s judgment. The angels are God’s agents, pouring out his wrath on disobedient rebels. Like the seven trumpets of Revelation 8–11 and the seven seals of Revelation 6–7, the portray, in symbols, various acts of God’s judgment, and, like the others, culminate in the last judgment, the full revelation of God’s holy anger against sin. There are parallels, even in the order of the places where judgment falls. Here with the bowls, however, the focus is primarily on the disobedient, those who persist in rebellion against God. Continue reading “Don’t Refuse to Repent!”