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Where is God in this Wicked World?

From the series The Revelation

How could a good God, with unlimited power, allow such injustice, evil, cruelty, and suffering, if He really loves us? This is a very fair question! The answer is quite possibly one you've not ever considered. Continuing through the book of Revelation, Chip reveals the truth about God's boundless love and His certain justice.

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Message Transcript

There is one question that believers and unbelievers have in common throughout all the centuries. Throughout all the centuries whether you’re a believer or an unbeliever there is one question that people ask on a regular basis: Where is God in this wicked world?

And you can read history hundreds of years ago, or you can go to the corner coffee shop, and when there is a tsunami and thousands of people are displaced and killed; when there’s a senseless bombing; when someone, for reasons we don’t understand, decides to kill his own children; when you look at things like the millions and millions of people just this century alone that have died. Stalin, it’s estimated that he killed fifty to sixty million people.

Idi Amin there in Uganda, Saddam Hussein: Tens of thousands. Ethnic cleansing, whether it was six million Jews at the Holocaust or Bosnia or Rwanda. Human slavery to this day. People bought and sold. Little girls taken out of their homes at eleven and twelve and sold in brothels all over the world.

Famine in which tens of thousands of people die. Earthquakes that displace and kill. And then in the midst of all this, outlandish corruption. I’ve been in countries where billions of dollars have gone to help those people only to go into the pockets of people with Swiss bank accounts that don’t have millions but billions of dollars and yet I can tell you and take you where they don’t have water, or sewers, or basic nutrition for the great masses of the people.

Now, that’s just this century. And it raises the question: Where is God in a wicked world? Put another way: How could a good God, with unlimited power, allow such injustice, evil, cruelty, and suffering if He really loved us?

Now I don’t know about you but that was a major hurdle for me as I was investigating the claims of Christ and who Jesus was and whether I could trust the Bible. A big hurdle was that question right there.

God’s overarching response to that question in Scripture is that although evil and wickedness will continue, and He actually predicts will increase in the last days, II Timothy 3:1 to 4, this is not an indication that God is aloof, uncaring, or inept.

In fact, it is the patience and mercy of God that allows wickedness and injustice to continue, prior to judgment, because he’s not wanting any to perish but everyone to come to repentance.

If you will, keep your finger in Revelation chapter 6 and just go backwards just a couple books to II Peter. Very interesting, the Church was under horrendous persecution. And in the midst of this persecution the apostle writes to a group of people that have the same question: Where is God in this wicked world? What about all the promises of Jesus? What about the kingdom?

And Peter, who has been through it all, writes in II Peter chapter 2, beginning at verse 4, he says, “For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but sent them to hell, putting them into a gloomy dungeon,” literally, “the abyss” that we’ll talk about later, “to be held in judgment; if He did not spare the ancient world when He brought the flood on the people, but protected Noah, a preacher of righteousness, and seven others; if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah by burning them to ashes, and made them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and yet He rescued Lot, a righteous man, who was distressed by the filthy lies of lawless men (for that righteous man, living among them day after day, was tormented in his righteous soul by the lawless deeds he saw and heard) – if this is so, then the Lord knows how to rescue godly men from trials and to hold the unrighteous for the day of judgment.”

They’ve got that same question and he says, “Look, historically God judges, He judges, He judges, but He saves and He preserves.” And then skip down to chapter 3, verse 8.

He says, “But do not forget,” because the question is, “This doesn’t seem fair,” right? How does God let a Stalin get away with this? You know, how in the world? I’ve been through all those countries in Africa. I’ve been out in the boonies in Haiti. They don’t have fresh water, I mean, millions and millions. Fifty percent of all the problems in all the world could be solved with a bar of soap and clean water.

He says in verse 8, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”

So the short answer goes something like this: God is absolutely fair, He is absolutely just, everyone will get exactly what they deserve, every act of wickedness, every false motive, every dictator, everything unkind and evil done to anyone – they will stand and give an account one day and be judged.

And every righteous deed, every act of suffering for the right reason, every act of love and kindness, and following of Christ will be rewarded. But his point is, “I am waiting and waiting and waiting.” If you think about it, some of us were some of those ungodly people, and it was the patience of God, and the mercy of God, and the grace of God that is allowing judgment, it’s going to happen, but He’s waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting with this hope that no one would perish but that everyone would respond.

Now, what we know is people don’t. But it is the kindness of the Lord that leads to repentance. His patience and His mercy, for those that He longs to see respond, are why God waits.

Now, what we want…  We’re on this side of the cross now and we want justice. We want fairness. We want those kids protected. We want fresh water. We want diseases stopped. We want potentates and dictators and evil people to be dealt with the way they ought to be, now.

And all God’s big response is, “Hey, hey, hey, everyone will get exactly what they deserve but in order, the price tag, I want to extend My mercy and My patience and My grace – the price tag of allowing evil to run its course, longer than you’re comfortable with, is My desire that during this time many, many more would repent and find forgiveness, and love, and intimacy, and relationship with me.”

God loves sinful people. And as the writer of I Corinthians says, “And such were some of you.” And so His judgment is delayed in an effort to give people more time to respond.

But even with this explanation, of delayed justice for the sake of grace and mercy, it raises a personal and pressing question. I mean, I can intellectually get that one down, okay? I can do the math on that one; I can see how an all-knowing God who sees outside of time; who knows the hearts of all men; who says, you know, “It’s all going to be fair but I’m going to exercise patience and mercy.”

I can get that up here but here’s the deal: What do you do when the present evil and injustice in the world tempts us to lose heart, lose hope, and give up?

I mean, you can kind of intellectually get it until you’re in one of those situations where you’re on the receiving end of injustice. Or you take one of those trips and you find yourself walking through a refugee camp and you see the disparity between the Mercedes and the Rolls Royces, and the thirty-five cars that the person in charge of this country has, and how ninety-nine percent of the people live in that country. And we’ve got it here as well.

And so here’s the question: What do you do? How do you handle the evil and the injustice when you feel like, “You know what?” Have you not felt this way? “This is not worth it. This Christian life isn’t worth it. I can’t put up with this anymore. This is not fair. I’m commanded to have all these great attitudes toward people, some of them very close to me, and, you know what? I just can’t take this anymore. I’m getting a raw deal.”

The answer is twofold: First, in the Revelation, which means, “The unveiling of Jesus Christ,” He reminds us, “When you feel that way, when you want to give up, when you’re ready to lose heart,” He reminds us He is the righteous Judge. Remember chapter 1? He reminds you, “Wait a second, you better realize,” this isn’t Jesus, meek and mild.

He has told you who He is, He has commanded you to walk righteously, to suffer with Him, to realize this is part of the deal, it’s been granted to you and granted to me, not only to believe but also to suffer for His sake, Philippians 1:29.

And in chapter 1 you have the picture of this righteous Judge. And this isn’t the Jesus who says “Come unto me all you that are heavy laden,” this is the Jesus with the eyes of fire, with the feet of bronze, with the two-edged sword in His mouth. This is the righteous One who is going to judge, not only the world, but you and me.

And then in chapter 2 this is the righteous Judge who tells us, “This is what I expect now,” right? And He went through all the seven churches and said, “Look, here’s where you’re doing well, here’s where you’re not doing so well. And this is what I expect because I am pure and holy and you’re My bride and I want you without spot or wrinkle.”

And then we found out that this is the One who is on the throne. I can hang in there because He says, “It’s all under control, I’m a sovereign God, and I’m going to execute every detail of your life with wisdom. I don’t make mistakes and I’m good.”

And then we also learned last week who holds the scroll. Jesus is the Lamb of God in the center of the throne and He is going to peal off these seals and justice is going to be revealed of what God is going to do as He rolls out His testament or His will for all of history. And so what you can know is no one is going to get a raw deal.

The second thing that happens, that’s chapters 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. After this, Jesus foretells how wickedness, evil, cruelty, and injustice will be justly judged, once and for all, and eliminated for all time, so that knowing this we might never lose heart or never lose hope.

In other words what he’s going to say is, “If you know for sure the final score, if you know for sure what evil people are going to get, if you know for sure exactly how it’s going to turn out, it gives you that rope with the knot on the end of it, you can hold on to when you feel like, ‘I can’t take it. This is so unfair. This is so wrong.’”

What he’s going to say, “Stop! Let me give you a little glimpse and let me show you exactly what’s going to happen.” And basically, it’s going to curl your hair and you will know, I’ll tell you what, God is just and the judgment He is going to bring is He’s going to bring a judgment on people that you wouldn’t wish on your worst enemies, because despite His great mercy and grace, when people spurn and spurn and spurn and stiff-arm God, His justice is going to prevail.

And what happens now in chapter 5: Here is the Lamb who is worthy. And we have this scroll written on two sides, and it has these seven seals and He’s going to open the first seal, the second seal, the third seal, the fourth seal, and pretty soon this period called, “The Tribulation” is going to occur.

Now what I want to do before we go into chapter 6 is give you a little reminder and overview so that as we’re talking you’ll know where we’re at.

The Church Age begins: Christ dies, He’s resurrected. Israel, as the agent of blessing, is put on the shelf. They rejected their own Messiah, they were the ones who held the oracles of God. Now the Church, the body of Christ, is God’s agent of blessing.

Jesus comes back for His Church, it happens beginning of chapter 4, and He takes the Church out but the word “Church” doesn’t occur again until the Tribulation is over, until Christ comes back, and there’s a new heaven, new earth, all the rest.

So you have this period called the Tribulation. Daniel talks about it in Daniel chapter 9. He talks about these, the seven-year period that’s going to follow these sixty-nine weeks and then there’s this parentheses of the Church Age.

And then what we’re going to talk about, chapter 6 of Revelation through chapter 18, all we’re going to talk about is the Tribulation. Okay? Or the wrath of God, the great distress, and then Jesus is going to come back and establish victory in chapter 19.

So all I wanted you to see was all we’re going to cover, in all these chapters, is this time of the Tribulation.

The other thing I want you to notice is the Church is taken to heaven and here’s the structure: Jesus will open the seals, it’s God’s destiny for the earth, this will begin the Tribulation period that Daniel prophesied in Daniel 9 and Jesus prophesied in Matthew 24.

Daniel 9:24 to 27 reveals that this period of the Tribulation is going to be divided into two separate periods. There’s a three and a half year period that has relative peace. There’s some trauma, and some fear, and some war and some things, and then the Antichrist will appear. And he will be seen as the answer. And then there will be a period of peace.

And then there will be a second three and a half years where we’re going to find out that God’s wrath will be revealed in ways beyond your wildest imagination and He will judge sin, He’ll judge the Antichrist.

A false trinity, we’ll learn about, we’ll learn that Satan is given new freedom, the Spirit of God is taken out of the world, believers are taken out of the world, the Antichrist will be like the corresponding Messiah, Satan, and then there will be a prophet.

So there will be a false trinity. And they’ll delude and rule the entire world and we’re going to talk about and learn exactly what happens during that time.

The abomination of desolation, Matthew 24:15 and Daniel 9:27, will inaugurate the second half of the Tribulation. When that occurs there’s a, the temple will get rebuilt and then there will be a sacrifice in that temple that will be an abomination and that is when the second half, it will be a key, of the second half of the Tribulation will occur.

Genuine followers will be persecuted, the Mark of the Beast, we’ll look at 666, you won’t be able to buy or sell anything after that period without that mark, either on your hand or your forehead.

During this horrendous time of judgment of national disaster, Satan’s work, angelic execution, there will be a great spiritual harvest as God once again uses the nation of Israel as His agent of blessing and evangelism.

God will, after the Tribulation, will fulfill all of His promises to Israel concerning the throne with David, and the land with Abraham. And so that’s the summary of what’s going to happen.

Now what I want you to put under this is from chapter 6 all the way through 16 – 17 and 18 basically are going to be a picture of the total collapse of the world system that Satan designed.

But here’s what I want you to do: I want you to write, “Seven Seals,” alright? And then put an arrow. Then put, “Seven Trumpets,” and then put an arrow. And then put, “Seven Bowls.” Seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls.

And what I want you to understand is that is an outline of all those chapters. If you don’t remember anything else, alright? And here’s what we’re going to see. Now watch carefully and I’m trying to give you the big picture because when I start filling in the spaces we’ll go pretty fast.

In chapter 6, Jesus is going to open the first seal, okay? And there will be judgment. I won’t tell you what it is but it’ll go one, two, three, four, five, six, and then we’re going to end and there will be a parentheses.

And something is going to happen in chapter 7. There’s going to be an appointing of one hundred and forty-four thousand Jewish evangelists, and then in chapter 8 and 9, we’re going to find the seventh seal will be opened by Jesus.

Now get this: The seventh seal opens up, like, telescopic and inside the seventh seal are seven trumpets, alright? And so what we’re going to see then are the trumpets of judgment. They’re all just judgment. The trumpets of judgment are going to occur in chapters 8 and 9 up until… but now when you get to between the sixth and the seventh trumpet there’s another parentheses, there’s a little break we’re going to find out.

And then we’re going to have a major parentheses of two chapters, 10 and 11, and then at the very end of 11, the seventh trumpet will announce a greater judgment that’s going to come, and then it isn’t chronological after this.

Chapters 12 and 13 introduce the players and the characters of Satan, and Israel, and the Woman, and the Beast, and the Antichrist, and the prophet.

And then you’ll get this picture of all these things that are happening on earth and some of them have been happening earlier but we get the camera lens over here describes, “Here’s what’s happening behind the scenes in some of these judgments.”

And then in chapters 14 and 15 it’s like the camera goes from, “This is what’s happening on earth and all this evil.” It will get a picture of heaven. And then we’ll get heaven’s perspective of what’s going on here, alright?

Then, when chapter 16 comes back, that trumpet, now we’re back into chronology and those bowls of judgment are going to go, “Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang.” And we’re going to see this final, the final trumpet will be, “It is finished; it is done.”

And then chapters 17 and 18 are almost like a commentary. You know, all the things that man prided, the religious system, it’ll be called Babylon - the mystery, and the political system, and the economic system, and all the things that were against God, all the things that seduced people. What you’ll see is you’ll just see their collapse.

And then the camera will go from the earth to heaven and you’ll see saints rejoicing and praising God and saying, “You know what? It stunk when I was there,” or, “Boy, we got ripped off there,” or, “I was starved to death here.” And the saints will rejoice and give praise to God that justice has been accomplished, that He has been righteous.

And then in chapter 19 the Lord comes back. And there’s this final, final battle and He finishes it.

So if you can remember, what? Seven seals, parentheses between 6 and 7; the seventh seal opens up into seven trumpets; the seven trumpets, there’s a parentheses between 6 and 7; and then the announcement of the seventh trumpet is, “Whoo, it’s really going to get better;” and then later seven bowls.

So do you have a picture of where we’re going? And all of this occurs during that Tribulation time.

The first three and a half years of the Tribulation are Revelation chapters 6 through 9. The story goes something like this: In chapter 6 we have these six seals. We have this parenthesis that happens between 6 and 7. And then the seventh seal, as we said, will open up the seven trumpets.

In chapter 6, the Lamb breaks the first seal sending God’s judgment upon the earth. The first seal - there is an announcer, one of the living creature announces judgment. The action: John sees a white horse. Its rider goes out to conquer, with a bow in his hand and a crown on his head.

There are two white horses in Revelation: This is the Antichrist. The next white horse is in chapter 19, when Jesus comes. The crown He wears is a crown, the Greek word is “stephanos,” it’s for a reward. It’s not “diadem,” not a ruler. Notice he has a bow, doesn’t have any arrows. He’ll be the man of peace. He will bring in a false peace.

The second seal - he announces a living creature, announces judgment, John sees a red horse. Its rider is given power to take peace from the earth. So now we have wars occurring.

The third seal - he sees a black horse, its rider is on a pair of scales indicating a great famine in the land. Isn’t that what often happens with war? So there’s a big war so this last horse reveals that there is now famine in the land.

The fourth seal – the living creature announces judgment. He sees a pale, green horse. This is verse 8. Its rider is death and hell. Millions will now die by the sword, famine, plagues, and wild beasts. The fifth seal - is very interesting. He sees now instead of judgment, the souls of martyrs under heaven.

He hears the martyrs in verse 10 say, “When will you avenge our blood,” and the reply of Christ the Messiah in verse 11, the martyrs are told to wait a little longer, until the full number of the servants of Jesus have been martyred.

Now, in verse 12 through 17, the sixth seal – John says, a great earthquake strikes. The sun turns black; the moon turns red as blood; the stars fall; the sky rolls up like a scroll; every mountain and island moves from its place; John hears this sound; people are hiding; rocks; there’s crisis; they’re running for cover; they wish they could die, but they can’t. It includes kings, warriors, rich, poor, slaves, and free men. They cry to hide from the wrath of God.

So judgment and the Tribulation is occurring, the Antichrist is in place, and did you notice that nearly all of these are all natural disasters? Okay? I mean, they’re what men do to one another. That’s important because what I’m going to want you to see, a little bit later, is judgment increases with intensity.

It gets more and more intense and the deliverer of judgment will go from men’s evil deeds to one another, to natural disasters, to demons, to Satan himself.

Now we said there’s a parentheses, Revelation chapter 7. Here John witnesses the sealing of one hundred and forty-four thousand witnesses and he hears the praise songs of unnumbered multitudes of those who have been saved out of the Great Tribulation.

He sees first these angels are holding back the four winds. Now remember we’ve got bang two, three, four, five, six. Now we got a little break here. And these angels are holding back what’s going to happen in terms of the next judgment.

He hears this fifth angel instruct the four not to harm the earth or the sea until God’s servants have been sealed. They’re going to be protected. A hundred and forty-four thousand, twelve thousand from each tribe.

There will be, despite the horrendous, horrendous judgments and suffering, there will be, as some predict, more people come to Christ through this Tribulation period than possibly centuries and centuries because people will see black and white, they will see evil. There’s war. People are crying out. I mean, a fourth of mankind has died. There is crisis like never before.

Now how these things happen… you have all kind of books and all kind of movies that make logical deductions about maybe it’s a nuclear situation over here, or an HIV plague over here. You know what? I don’t know how it happens.

But what we know is everything this book writes about now is more plausible today than it’s ever been. I mean, some things when these were written… I mean, we’re going to look at these two witnesses, in this parentheses in chapter 11 – Moses and Elijah – and they have this three and a half years of ministry and they have fire come out of their mouth and they… it has this ridiculous verse.

Imagine, fifty years ago, reading a verse that says, “These two men will die and lay in the streets and everyone in the earth will be able to see them.” Can you imagine reading something that says, “The entire earth is going to be able to see these two guys,” fifty years ago? Thirty years ago? Twenty years ago? And you’re just going, “No way.”

And now, my lands, I don’t know where my cell phone is… the whole world can see everything right now, instantaneously, correct? We couldn’t do that before. Very, very interesting as you see how this develops.

So they’re numbered with the multitude, then they begin to sing and, by the way, I want you to… we don’t have time to go through all of it as much as you’d like. But after they all come together, would you notice there, “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

“And the angels were standing around,” I’m in verse 10 and 11 of chapter 7, “around and the elders and the four living creatures. And they fell down on their faces before the throne and they worshipped God saying: ‘Amen! Praise and glory, wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God forever and ever. Amen!’

“Then one of the elders asked me, ‘These in the white robes – who are they, and where did they come from?’” And he says, “‘Sir, you know.’ And he said, ‘They are those who come out of the Great Tribulation; they have washed their robes and they have they have been made white by the blood of the Lamb.

“‘Therefore, they are before the throne of God and they serve Him day and night; and the one who sits on the throne will spread out His tent over them and never again will they hunger; and never again will they thirst. And the sun won’t burn them and the scorching heat will not touch them. For the Lamb is at the center of the throne, and He will be their shepherd; and He’ll lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.’”

And here’s what I want you to see: We’re going to see suffering and judgment and I want you to, just mentally, I haven’t done this but someone, like, with a little pad, just keep looking in your Bible. Every time people break out in songs in heaven tell me how many times that happens.

Because what you’re going to see, one of the phenomenal principles of the book of Revelation is going to be: If you look at look at life through the earth’s perspective, man, I’ll tell you what, it doesn’t look good.

But these things that are happening now, why these judgments are occurring, are what is going on in heaven. And John is hearing from the resurrected Christ, “John, Patmos is kind of tough and it’s unjust and it’s difficult and I made some promises and you feel like giving up. John, John, John! Buddy! I want you to look at your situation through the lens of who you already are, and where you’re going to be, and they’re singing in heaven and they’re going to be singing in heaven and you are going to experience what overcomers experience – those that remain faithful.” And that’s going to be one of the themes of this whole book.

And so we get these evangelists who are now going to set forth and do evangelism. And now we pick up the story and the seventh seal opens and these trumpets of judgment occur of Revelation chapter 8.

The seventh seal opens and then boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, like a telescope, there are seven trumpets inside of it. Events preceding the blowing of the trumpet: There’s a thirty-minute pause in heaven. Can you imagine what that would be like? Absolute silence.

There has been, “Boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom,” judgment. And there has been, literally, deputizing.

A hundred and forty-four thousand people out of the great mercy and God’s love who says, “You know what? Justice is now going to happen. But, man, I want you to go out to the highways and the byways and you’re protected; I’ve put this seal upon you. And I want you to tell everyone that I love them. I want you to tell everybody that I love them. I want you to tell those people that are suffering, those people are afraid, and those people who have gotten a raw deal – tell them I love them, tell them I love them, give them the gospel, tell them about the Lamb who was slain, tell them there’s happy news. Your sins have been forgiven, He died, He rose, it’s true, it’s real.”

And that’s the message. And I just can’t help but think, now, a lot of smart commentators, they all have lots of opinions. I just can’t help but think there isn’t a pregnant pause that people would really realize what’s going on and that God doesn’t, even in the midst of judgment, give a pause and gives you time and me time and people that we love time, just one more time, to reconsider their life. And reconsider to repent from their sin.

And so we have this pause. And now the trumpet blows and the first trumpet - one third of the trees and the grass are burned by hail and mixed with fire, verses 6 and 7; the second trumpet - is verses 8 and 9, and a third of all the marine life and the ships are destroyed by a burning object, many people think a huge meteor hits the water; a third trumpet - is one third of the fresh water is poisoned. And now imagine that, a third of all the streams of all, I mean, you drink the water, you die.

The fourth trumpet of judgment - One third of the sun, the moon, the stars are darkened, some sort of an eclipse, it could be a cloud from nuclear warfare. I don’t know what it is. But the aftermath is that an eagle flies, after these first four trumpets, and I’ve never heard an eagle speak and probably most people haven’t either but this eagle flies through the earth and through the heavens and it says, “Woe, woe, woe, if you thought these were bad,” this is a very loose translation, “it’s going to get a lot worse.”

And so Revelation 9 opens up, the fifth and sixth trumpets - are sounded and notice here’s why it’s going to get worse: Those were physical disasters. Now notice the fifth trumpet results in demonic invasion.

The home of the demons is described in chapter 9 verses 1 and 2. Their abode is a smokeless, bottomless pit called, “The Abyss.” The horror of these demons, their appearance is they look like locusts and horses armored for battle; they wear golden crowns; they have men’s faces; women’s hair; lion’s teeth. That’s enough to scare you.

They’re protected by iron breastplates; they have stinging tails like scorpions; their administrator, their king’s name is Abaddon, in Hebrew. Apollyon, in Greek (meaning, the Destroyer). In other words, their king is Satan.

Their assignment is they are not to harm the grass or the trees, but they are to torture, but not kill the unsaved for five months.

And then the sixth trumpet - results in a second demonic invasion and the home of these demons is described in verses 13 and 14. They are bound in an area near the Euphrates River, their leaders are led by four special demons. The hostility of these demons is they are kept in readiness for a particular year, month, date, and hour. Their purpose is to be released, they kill a third of mankind.

Do you feel the intensity growing? I mean, a fourth happened over here so there’s only seventy-five percent left and then of the seventy-five, bam, another third are killed now by demons after five months of torture.

The reaction, look at verse 20 of chapter 9. All this stuff is breaking loose. How do people respond? “The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshipping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone, and wood – idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality, or their thefts.”

This is the sixth trumpet of judgment and then what we’re going to find is we’re going to get another little parentheses here.

Now think of that. I mean, what would it take? What I want you to see in chapter 6, 7, 8, and 9 – God, in His great mercy, is saying to sinners, saying to people that have totally stiff-armed Him, people that don’t deserve anything, people like us. And He’s bringing ever-increasing judgment.

First of all, there’s this man of peace, then there’s wars, then there’s plague, then there’s death, then there are famines. Now demons are released, then a third of mankind, and then these things are happening in the atmosphere, where the water is no good here and things happen in the sea here.

And God, in His great mercy, wants people to say, “Uncle! I surrender! You’re God! You’re Lord! You’re King! You’re the CEO! I want…” The word, “to repent,” literally means to have a change of mind that leads to a change of action. And you notice, don’t miss the hardness of people’s hearts.

Now let me provide a little bit of application here. The principle, I call it the principle of the Velvet Vice of Adversity. And I’d like you to notice that God uses evil to execute judgment on evil men and to perfect His saints.

It’s like a velvet vice. The velvet is His mercy and His love, but this is what God does. And, by the way, this is pictured in the Tribulation, but this is how God works in our day as well.

When my heart gets hard, when God wants to get your attention and my attention, doesn’t He start with some physical things, and then some financial things, and then some relational things, and then some things you can’t understand?

And, you know, guess what? “I love you, I love you, I love you,” and you’re in this car and you’re running it your own way and you’re telling Him you’re going to do it your own way and, yeah, you know, a couple of these things you agree with but, you know what? And your car is headed off a cliff, through a guardrail, and a thousand foot drop and it’s going to hurt you.

And He loves you so much He’s going to start messing with the air conditioning and the heat is going to get hot. Then it’s going to blow up and then the engine… And, I mean, He’s going to bring the velvet vice of adversity until He gets your attention.

And we even learn, you know, a very interesting passage: I Corinthians 11 when the apostle Paul is giving instruction about the Lord’s Supper. And he talks about how God deals with saints who are in rebellion. Genuine saints, born again people who start drifting. And then pretty soon their hearts get hard and they turn away from God and they won’t obey, they won’t obey, they won’t obey.

And he says, “You know when you gather for the Lord’s Supper,” He says, “You are living so different than a believer ought to live and you’re in active rebellion. Some of you are sick and some of you are prematurely sleeping.” And what it basically says is good takes them home.

See we don’t teach a whole lot about the judgment of God. The judgment of God first starts with the household of God.

Now, you know, this is people who shake their fist at God and say, “God, I will not walk with You. I will not obey. I’m not going to do what You want me to do.”

And so the first principle we see here is this principle of the Velvet Vice of Adversity. And just notice: God actually uses evil to execute judgment on evil men and to perfect His saints.

See, did you notice we had these martyrs who… it was terrible judgment but God used the evil and the difficulty for them to draw near to Him and get great reward and have…

Isn’t that when the greatest intimacy comes in our relationship with God? I’d like to say it’s when Theresa and I are doing great, all my kids are wonderful, all my grandkids are healthy, there’s more money coming in than we know what to do with, the ministry is flourishing on every level. And, you know what? I just have to try and figure out what to do with my days because I’m just so happy, happy, happy, happy. Things are just wonderful. And that’s, and as a result I block off four and five hours just to pray because I am so grateful.

But I gotta tell you, that’s not how it works in my life. How it works in my life is, I got a struggle over here, and a problem over there, and part of my body is not working over there, and… what’s going to happen? And there’s pressure and difficulty, and you got a raw deal over there, and someone runs a red light and does your car in over there.

Isn’t that when you cry out to God? God uses evil to execute His judgment on evil people and to perfect His saints. And here’s the hope: As you looked at chapters 6, 7, 8, and 9, God’s judgment is patient, progressive, and precise in order to extend opportunities for us to respond to His mercy and forgiveness.

Do you see how He’s patient? I mean, He even stops for a half hour to give people a little room, right? It’s progressive. It starts with some wars and some things and pretty soon, man, you got demons coming at you full-throttle.

And it’s precise. It’s a third here, and a third here, and this here. It’s not random. And that’s how God operates. And He does it because He wants to extend, I hope you hear, behind all this  weird sounding and, at times, very harsh judgment. This is in the context of justice is finally going to come. But I hope you see the mercy behind it.

The next section is chapters 10 and 11, and this is a parentheses, alright? Don’t lose sight but you get caught in, okay, remember? We’re starting out, it’s all about judgment, we’re in the Tribulation, we’re at the seals: Seal one, two, three, four, five, six – parentheses – one hundred and forty-four thousand. Chapter 7, bang, we got what? That parentheses.

Then the seventh one: Boom, boom, boom, boom. Seven trumpets, six trumpets of judgment have occurred. Now chapters 10 and 11, after this we have a little parentheses.

And this is a very interesting one. Chapter 10 is about this little scroll that’s given and chapter 11 is about the two witnesses. And by way of the scroll, rather than spend a lot of time, you get this little scroll and inside of it is more judgment and John reads it and he’s forbidden to share it.

And then he’s told to eat it and he says when you eat it, it will be like honey in your tongue, but it will get sour when it’s in your stomach. And what you have is a picture of God telling him, “Here’s some other judgment that could come, that I’m going to withhold. Don’t even say anything about that.” I mean, when you see some of this, he says, “But it could be worse.”

And then he’s talking about the role I think that we have, as we’re a part sometimes, of executing God’s judgment. And the truth is sweet and knowing, but boy, it’s sour when you see the process and the pain and the hurt in peoples’ lives.

And then in chapter 11, you get these very interesting two witnesses. And let’s walk through that one a little bit more carefully. As you read through here, the two witnesses carry out a one thousand two hundred and sixty day ministry before being murdered by the Antichrist and then at the end of this, the seventh trumpet is going to blow.

And, of course, one thousand two hundred and sixty days is three and a half years. This is the first half. And so John is told, first, the temple of God in verses 1 and 2. The command, he’s told to measure this Tribulation temple – that means this temple has got to get rebuilt, right? Because there’s no temple there now.

He counts the number of worshippers, he’s to exclude the outer court, the Gentiles are going to trample this holy city for forty-two months, three and a half years.

And then we get this ministry of the two witnesses. The duration of the ministry, they’re going to prophesy for three and a half years, they function as God’s two olive trees and lampstands. They are going to say, in the midst of all this judgment, God’s spokesmen, God’s truth, God’s opportunity for peace.

The devastation caused by their ministries, they devour their enemies, verse 5, by supernatural fire. I guess when you give them a hard time, this would be kind of wild to see, wouldn’t it? You know, just, tchoo, you know? Fire comes out of their mouth.

They cause a three and a half year drought, they turn water into blood, they strike the earth with plagues. And you have a picture here, there’s some debate among scholars, but most believe by who is identified here: We got Elijah and Moses.

Elijah never died and he was the one who what? Prayed: and for three and a half years there was drought. Moses: the plagues of blood, similar here. And so, we have the same two people that were on the Mount of Transfiguration - with Peter, John, and James - and these are God’s two witnesses. They’re witnesses to the truth.

All during this Tribulation, people have opportunity, opportunity, opportunity, opportunity to hear the truth.

And then notice that they’re martyred. The Antichrist kills them in verse 7, he comes from the bottomless pit, he won’t allow anyone, verse 9, he won’t allow anyone to bury the witnesses. They lie in the streets of Jerusalem. He does this to show utter contempt for the two witnesses.

And then look at verse 11, in your Bibles, as you scan that. The whole world rejoices - like Christmas, they send each other gifts. This is perversion. I mean, “Hey! They’re dead!” Right? “What would you like for Dead Witness Day?” You know? I mean, this is bizarre.

And then there’s this metamorphosis, or this resurrection, of the two witnesses. They are raptured into heaven and then a huge earthquake destroys one tenth of Jerusalem and leaves seven thousand people dead.

And then toward the end of this, as I said the whole world is able to see this as a testimony, and all heaven praises and worships God, and the sounding of the seventh trumpet occurs, and we pick that up, chapter 11 verse 15.

And so imagine just what’s happening now. That sixth trumpet, the intermission, the scroll, now these witnesses, and then now as they’ve died, they’ve been resurrected, the world has seen this power. They have seen people come back to life.

And as they come, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and Him Christ,” verse 15, “and He will reign forever and ever. And the twenty-four elders who, seated on the thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshipped God saying: ‘We give thanks to You, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and was, because You have taken your great power and You have begun to reign.

“‘The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding Your servants the prophets, and Your saints who have reverenced Your name, both small and great – and for destroying those who destroy the earth.’

“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and within the temple was seen the Ark of the Covenant. And there came flashes of lightning and rumblings and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm.”

And what I just want you to see, again, is there’s this testimony and then you get this view of heaven and notice that phrase, “You have begun to reign.” Notice that judgment has two things going for it. One, people that have done evil things get punished. And did you notice the saints get rewarded?

Judgment has to do with not just evil being eradicated and judged but those who have suffered, those who have been through difficulty, those who have been faithful… And again you got another song going.

The principle that I see in this section is that: men are without excuse. At the heart of our rebellion is pride. At the heart of what causes men not to repent when they see two men raised from the dead. The heart, when they hear the truth, when they see plagues and predictions and prophecy and they still will not repent. Men are without excuse.

And it’s very interesting, you might jot down Romans chapter 1 verses 18 to 21. Paul makes the same case even before this happens. He’ll basically say, “God, in general revelation, the creation declares the glory of the Lord. But men, rather than giving thanks, begin to worship the,” what? “the creation instead of the Creator.”

And so it’s in their rebellion that God gives them over to their own lusts and passions. And you see this cycle of degradation where the issue at the heart is not, “I need more, clear intellectual evidence to convince me.” Or, “If I could just see a miracle.” I’ll tell you what, these people saw more miracles, and they had more intellectual, validatable evidence than you can shake a stick at, but it didn’t change things.

Now I praise God when He gives signs and miraculous things and He did that to authenticate Him Word and I believe we need to do great apologetics in love and answer intellectual issues. But what you need to understand is people are not one more thought away from becoming Christians or one more miracle away. People are: the surrendering of their pride and their personal rebellion away.

We basically have the same problem Satan did. And Satan says, “I will be like the Most High.” And Eve’s temptation was, “When you eat this you can,” what? “You’ll be like God. You’ll have His wisdom.”

And there can be only one Lord of the universe and that’s the one that created it. And that’s why over and over, in Scripture, God is near to the brokenhearted and He saves those who are crushed in spirit. And He is opposed to the proud.

And so the principle… you know, this is happening there, but God’s character hasn’t changed. The principle He’s operating under here, in this Tribulation, it’s the same God and the same principle He operates under with us, before any of this happens.

And so I’m taking that away and saying, “You know what? Lord, I need to understand, with those people that I’m ministering to, and in my own heart, the core issue in my life is always a moral one. It’s not an intellectual one.”

The hope is:  God judges with perfect righteousness. No one will ever get a raw deal. Did you see that in verse 18 of chapter 11? “The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, for rewarding Your servants and the prophets, the saints who revere Your name, both small and great – and destroying those who destroy the earth.”

“We thank You,” he says, “because You’ve taken Your great power and You’ve begun to reign.” No one will get a raw deal. Isn’t that the heart of some of your struggle? When you see how things are playing out in the world, or in your personal relationships, or what happens at work, or in a family situation, or in-law situation, or someone walks out on you or, you invest all this time in one of your kids and you love them and they start getting in with a different group, they start making some really bad decisions and then you get treatment…

Tell you what, it’s an amazing experience to meet with parents whose kids get into alcohol or drugs and steal from them and there’s such hurt and bitterness and here’s the deal. There are times when we get so hurt in our heart, we so struggle, and if we could, if we could realize, “Wait a second. What’s our hope?” No one is going to get a raw deal.

At the end of the day, God is just. He judges in perfect righteousness. The just reward that you deserve, for responding with a right attitude, the way God wants you to in the midst of suffering in a fallen world, will be rewarded. And those people who do harm and hurt…

See, the idea of justice is what? Is getting what you deserve. At the core of justice is what’s called, “retribution.” And God will give just retribution for evil. And those people that are putting poison in the water system to make a buck that give kids cancer – it will be a bad day in front of the judgment of God.

And those people that, out of greed, have billions of dollars in a Swiss bank account and their people don’t have clean water or running water or sewers and are dying in their countries – it’s going to be a bad day before God.

And God will have mercy on them and God will show grace to those people who suffer and trust. It is a fallen world. And what we’re called to be what? Salt and light in the midst of it. And so our hope is no one will get a raw deal.

We now move to the second half of the Tribulation, chapters 12 through 18, and now notice the structure here. You just need to get this. The structure is no longer chronological in its flow.

We’re now, he’s now going to introduce the key characters, if you will, of the Tribulation and their historical relationship with one another. Chapter 16 we’re going to pick up the flow of the continuing judgments and the second half of the Tribulation ending with the final judgment and the return of Christ.

But in chapters 12 and 13, the stage is going to be set on earth and we’re going to learn about where did Satan come from and who is this Antichrist and who is this prophet and how does all that work and who does he persecute? Israel, etcetera.

And then, after a couple of chapters of that, then we’re going to get this vision, “Well, what’s going on in heaven? What’s heaven’s perspective on all this stuff?” And we’re going to hear a lot of worship and then, then in chapter 16 we’ll pick it back up and we’ll see this final judgment, these seven bowls of wrath.

And then, in chapters 17 and 18, almost as an epilogue we’re going to hear, “Babylon the great,” all the infrastructure, all the city, all the systems, all the religion, all the politics, all the economics that was energized behind this concept of the world system, epitomized by Babylon - of the lust of the flesh, to the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. That’s the cosmos, the world system.

All of that is just going to disintegrate, it’s going to be done, it’s going to be seen for what it is. And then Christ is going to come, in chapter 19.

So let’s pick it up in chapter 12, John sees an interplay between a woman and a dragon, symbolizing the nation of Israel and Satan. Satan’s former hatred for God and His people, we see in chapter 12 verses 1 through 5.

This best seems to be referred to as, “Original fall,” then his sin there is in Bethlehem, he persecutes God’s nation. Satan persecutes God’s Son, it’s looking back at the birth of Christ, the ascension of Christ, and so you see here in this early part: Where has Satan been? Where is he going? Where has this conflict started? And so it’s kind of giving a back view to Satan and his role.

Then we pick it up to Satan’s future hatred for God, in verses 6 through 18, and there’s this woman in the wilderness. And the woman here is the nation of Israel. She’ll be persecuted by Satan during the Great Tribulation. Israel is going to be protected by God during the Tribulation.

And then, so you see this back and forth and the woman and the hiding and the pursuing. And then you have, beginning in verse 7 through 12, there’s a war in heaven. Many believe this will happen right in the middle of the Tribulation and this, by the way, there’s lots of passages here. I just gotta tell you, really smart, great people really disagree on some of, “This happens here or this happens here,” but what we know for sure is Satan is kicked out of heaven, it looks like for the second time.

You know, sometimes we have this notion that somehow Satan is down in hell with demons. And that we are living on the earth and God is up in heaven. But Satan has access before the presence of God.

I mean, remember the book of Job, right? Satan comes before God and what’s he do? And then what’s he called in the New Testament? He’s called the Accuser of the Brethren.

And so what you have now is this deal is happening and so Satan is defeated and he is cast down to the earth, he is filled with wrath in verse 10, the saints are filled with joy in the second half of verse 10 and 11. And then sinners are filled with fear as he goes down and this action occurs.

And so the basic point of chapter 12 is, okay, you’ve got these seven seals then you got these seven trumpets, you have Satan introduced on this white horse, he’s this man of peace, you have all this chaos happening.

During this three and a half years you have these two witnesses of God, Moses and Elijah, giving testimony. While they’re giving testimony you have these one hundred and forty-four thousand Jewish evangelists going all over the place.

And now we’re going to get some backdrop of some things that were occurring during this time. And so you get this backdrop of: This is Satan and there are spiritual things going on in heaven, and now you have Satan and he’s at odds with Israel, and now Israel is God’s chosen agent, and He’s going to be working through them.

And so that’s Satan. And then in chapter 13 it opens up and we’re going to learn about the Antichrist and the prophet. So John sees two beasts coming out of the sea, and then one out of the earth in this chapter: The Antichrist and the False Prophet.

So the Antichrist is coming out of the sea, his appearance, look, just scan as I read, you’re doing great. He has ten horns with a crown; seven heads, each that has a blasphemous name on it; he looks like a leopard; he has feet like a bear; a mouth like a lion.

His authority comes directly from Satan himself, look at verse 2. Some believe, and I believe, it’s very clear here that there’s going to be an assassination of this false messiah and he’ll be raised from the dead.

Following that, the entire world is going to be astonished and worship the Antichrist. For a period of forty-two months, he blasphemes God and then, with regard to God’s people, this is His agenda: Cruelty and persecution, to conquer them. The saints, in verses 7 through 9 and verse 10, are exhorted to display endurance and faithfulness.

And then this Antichrist rules, as the evil messiah, over the whole world. After this happens, then there is another beast. This one not out of the sea, this comes out of the earth. This is the False Prophet.

Look at verses 11 and 12. He has the appearance of a lamb but the voice of a dragon and he forces the world to worship the Antichrist. Do you see the positive/negative? Do you see the parallels? God the Father - Satan; God the Son - Antichrist; Holy Spirit - this prophet or this one who executes the evil of the Antichrist.

His mission, this False Prophet, is to have people worship the Antichrist. He has the power to perform great miracles, he calls down fire from heaven. So, wow, you can just see it happening. Well, Moses does this; well, he does this. It’s kind of like the Egyptian magicians, right? Moses did this with his staff, they did this; he did this, they did that.

This is the battle for the ages. This is good and evil. This is laying it all down and putting it all on the line, and it’s about the souls of people. It’s about people on the earth.

His mark is the number 666, it’s to be put on either on the right hand or the forehead, and without it no one can buy or sell. And then the camera moves from there up to heaven.

And then, chapter 14, we get a report on the hundred and forty-four thousand and they sing a song of praise. John’s given a preview of Armageddon when Christ will return triumphantly and, chapter 14, you get this song of the redeemed.

What is it John sees? He sees the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, the hundred and forty-four thousand – he’s getting this picture of what’s going to happen. Then what he hears are heavenly harps, heavenly hosannas, the hundred and forty-four thousand sing a song that no one else can sing, verses 3, 4, and 5.

And then there’s this message of the angels of God. The first angel, look at verses 6 and 7, he says, “Fear God, give glory to Him, when He will sit as judge, worship Him.”

The second angel makes a prediction here, he says, “This is what’s happening. Babylon is fallen.” Verse 9 of chapter 14, the third angel, “Don’t receive,” he says to the saints, “don’t receive the mark of the Antichrist.” The penalty? Eternal torment in the lake of fire. He urges the people, “Remain faithful, remain faithful.”

And then you get the assurance of the Spirit of God in verse 13, “Blessed are the martyrs for they will soon be rewarded.” And then you get this reaping of the harvest of God and Jesus Himself is the reaper, look at verses 14 and 15, the unsaved and the unrepentant of the earth are going to be judged and then notice, “Sinners will be crushed as overripe grapes in the winepress. Their blood will flow out in streams, a hundred and eighty miles long and as high as a horse’s bridle.”

And so this is heavy duty judgment of people for their sin and rebellion and God judges them.
This is the battle for the ages. This is good and evil. This is laying it all down and putting it all on the line, and it’s about the souls of people. It’s about people on the earth.

His mark is the number 666, it’s to be put on either on the right hand or the forehead, and without it no one can buy or sell. And then the camera moves from there up to heaven.

And then, chapter 14, we get a report on the hundred and forty-four thousand and they sing a song of praise. John’s given a preview of Armageddon when Christ will return triumphantly and, chapter 14, you get this song of the redeemed.

What is it John sees? He sees the Lamb standing on Mount Zion, the hundred and forty-four thousand – he’s getting this picture of what’s going to happen. Then what he hears are heavenly harps, heavenly hosannas, the hundred and forty-four thousand sing a song that no one else can sing, verses 3, 4, and 5.

And then there’s this message of the angels of God. The first angel, look at verses 6 and 7, he says, “Fear God, give glory to Him, when He will sit as judge, worship Him.”

The second angel makes a prediction here, he says, “This is what’s happening. Babylon is fallen.” Verse 9 of chapter 14, the third angel, “Don’t receive,” he says to the saints, “don’t receive the mark of the Antichrist.” The penalty? Eternal torment in the lake of fire. He urges the people, “Remain faithful, remain faithful.”

And then you get the assurance of the Spirit of God in verse 13, “Blessed are the martyrs for they will soon be rewarded.” And then you get this reaping of the harvest of God and Jesus Himself is the reaper, look at verses 14 and 15, the unsaved and the unrepentant of the earth are going to be judged and then notice, “Sinners will be crushed as overripe grapes in the winepress. Their blood will flow out in streams, a hundred and eighty miles long and as high as a horse’s bridle.”

And so this is heavy duty judgment of people for their sin and rebellion and God judges them.

And then, in chapter 15, the seven angels prepare to pour out the seven more judgments upon the earth, John hears the victors over the Antichrist singing a song in praise to God. And so in chapter 15 it opens up, what did he see? Seven angels.

This is the perfect book. There’s seven everything. There are seven signs, seven angels, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls. Notice these seven angels: they are to pour out God’s final judgment consisting of the seven bowls. Their appearance, notice, they are dressed in clean, shining linin and they wear golden sashes around their chests.

He sees a fire, and glass upon which those who stand have been victorious over the Antichrist, in verse 2. He sees a smoke filled temple - the holy of holies, look at verse 5 - it’s opened. The temple itself is closed to all until the bowls of judgments are completed.

Skipping down, he hears singing. Those who have been victorious over the Antichrist, and notice they sing the song Moses sang, praising His justice, eternality, holiness, and righteousness.

And so what we’ve been given is this background, chapters 12 and 13, of who are the major players and what they are doing. Satan, Antichrist, False Prophet, persecution. Chapters 14 and 15: Angels, worship, perspective, what’s going to happen, don’t take the mark of the beast.

Now we move to chapter 16 and now we’re going to get back into those bowls in succession and we’re back in chronology. The first judgment is the place: It’s poured out on the earth. Horrible, malignant sores break out on those who have received the mark of the beast.

Second judgment, verse 3, is upon the seas. The waters become blood, killing all life in them. Do you see the progression of this book? I mean, it was a third of the sea, now it’s all of the sea and blood.

The third judgment bowl, verses 4 through 7, it’s poured on the rivers and the springs; the freshwater sources become as blood. The angel now announces the reason for this, namely, to avenge the blood of the martyrs.

God remembers. Never forget that. He really remembers. These people have died and given their blood. They would rather die, the great passage you might jot down is Revelation 12:11. It’s that one little application, we’ll touch on it in a little bit but he says, “And they overcame him,” Satan, how? “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their life even to death.”

And God looks at that and He remembers. And I would just remind you – He knows what you’ve been through. He knows when you’ve gotten a raw deal. He knows when you’ve been treated unjustly. He knows when you’ve been hurt by others. And He remembers.

The fourth judgment bowl is poured on the sun, it scorches all the people with its fire. Everyone responds to this plague by cursing and refusing to repent. That seems to be a pretty consistent pattern in the book.

The fifth judgment bowl, verses 10 and 11, is upon the throne of the beast; his entire kingdom is plunged into darkness. I mean, this is, bang, we’re getting there. Once again the people refuse to repent.

The sixth bowl judgment occurs, the great river Euphrates dries up. Demons deceive the kings of the east and they march with their armies toward the Euphrates and prepare for Armageddon and a blessing is promised for those who will prepare their hearts for the return of Christ.

And then there’s the seventh bowl judgment, it’s poured into the air, there comes a voice from the temple saying, “It is finished.” History’s greatest earthquake occurs in verse 18, it splits Babylon into three parts, the great cities of the world collapse. Islands vanish. Mountains are flattened. Hailstones weighing seventy-five to one hundred pounds fall from the sky.

And then notice, at chapter 16 at the end, this is the third reference in this chapter of judgment to how people respond. They will not repent, in verse 9, they will not repent in verse 11, and notice at the very end, “and they cursed God on account of the plague and because the plague was so terrible,” and that’s how chapter 16 and God’s progressive judgments end.

Chapters 17 and 18, I’m going to try and go through a little bit briefly. One, because of time and, one, because you read it all, the gist of it is pretty easy to understand. But there’s lots of stuff: Babylon, Babylon and there’s lots of debate, none of which I’m going to get into.

You know, “Is this the Holy Roman Empire, is this figurative, is this symbolic?” Here’s what I can tell you for sure: It’s the world system and all the world system has offered that is a counterfeit.

Did you notice the parallel? God’s truth, Satan’s counterfeit; God’s truth, Satan’s counterfeit. You are living in a world that’s not quite as graphic as this, by what you can see, but what you can see here is the fruit and the world that we live in is everywhere around you everyday - there is God’s truth and Satan’s counterfeit.

And there’s a world system and he uses nice, pretty people to say, “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life is how you can be secure, significant, and a somebody. And if you can drive the right car, and look the right way, and have enough money, and get the right education, and you can get certain things, and that you will be…” What you’ll be is deceived.

And what you’re going to see now is that this whole system of Babylon, the world system, is going to fall apart.

This talks about a prostitute, because that’s… by the way, when you get mad at the world, you start getting victory. I remember when I finally realized, “You know what? This world system is trying to seduce me away from all that’s good.”

But I spent most of my Christian life, when it was early and I was young and struggling, not that I don’t struggle now, but it was like, “Oh, if I only had this and why won’t God let me have that? And everything that’s good, and fun, and exciting… He’s got commands that say “No.”

“I mean, there are four girls to every guy on my college campus and God says, ‘No sex before marriage?’ I mean, give me a break, you know? And He says I’m supposed to give the first portion of my money, and I don’t even have very much money now, and then He says that I’m supposed to think pure thoughts and then He says I’m supposed to turn the other cheek when I’m criticized and don’t retaliate? This ain’t fair! God… why, why, why?”

And then He says, “Don’t be greedy and don’t hoard,” why? Because it will destroy me. See, when you begin to see that the world system, and all those flashy commercials, and all those magazines in the checkout stand, and all those movies, and all those romance novels, are a prostitute trying to seduce you away from what will fill your heart and make you really secure, and really significant, and really loved, and really happy – when you look at it as a prostitute, then pretty soon you can get kind of angry and say, “You know what? Boy, I do not want to get seduced by that.”

But it is seductive, isn’t it? And we’re a people of flesh. And there’s something inside me that gravitates and is attracted to that. And I know, from Scripture, not from your faces right now because you guys look a lot more holy than you really are. But I will tell you that you struggle with that as well.

So notice this prostitute. She commits adultery with, she blasphemes God, she’s aligned herself with the godless, political system. On her forehead is written, “Babylon the Great, Mother of Prostitutes, Obscenities in the World,” she is drunk, she loves it. This is Satan, this is Satan’s tool.

She is drunk on the blood of the martyrs that she has murdered. She has enjoyed that. The interpretation of the prostitute is given in verses 7 through 18. He sees the woman riding on a beast with seven heads and horns. The woman represents a corrupt religious system depicted by the city of Babylon.

The beast represents various kings and they go through the different kings and some already, some not yet, and a lot of detail that we won’t go into.

And then chapter 18, an angel with great authority and splendor announces Babylon’s destruction. The city is destroyed for its many sins. Why? Notice this, it’s become, the system, has become a den of demons, it’s filled with immorality, it’s materialistic to the core, its sins are as high as heaven, verse 5, it’s totally proud and arrogant, it has deceived the nations and killed the saints, and it’s buying and selling human slaves.

God orders His people to leave this corrupt city, those that are still alive in the Tribulation that are following Him; the city is destroyed by God Himself. And notice, the severity of the destruction: It’s given a double punishment for the evil deeds and the suddenness of it - Fire from heaven consumes the city and, boom, one single moment.

Then, notice, there is great remorse by the unsaved. The merchants of the world cry out, “How terrible… Babylon was great.”  They cry, “What are we going to do? Our money, our slaves…” and there is great rejoicing in heaven.

In fact, look at chapter 18, I want you to see this because there is a time and a place where we will be able to see that God makes things right. And the people that did really, really bad, bad stuff get exactly what they deserve.

And notice the command, “‘Rejoice over her, O heaven, rejoice saints and apostles and prophets, God has judged her for the way she treated you.’

“Then a mighty angel picked up a boulder the size of a millstone and threw it into the sea, and said: ‘With such violence the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again. The music of the harpists, the musicians, the flutes, the trumpet players, will never be heard in you.

“‘Your merchants were the world’s great men. By your magic spell all the nations were led astray. In her was found the blood of the prophets and the saints and of all who have been killed on the earth.’”

There’s the story. The principle, right? The I John 2:15 and 16 principle. And if you don’t know what that says, by heart, the principle is: Love not the world. That’s the command. It’s written by the same author - John. And he says, “Love not the world.”

What’s the world? It’s Babylon. It’s the Babylon system that we live in. What’s the Babylon system? The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. He says, “Love not the world nor the things in the world. For all that love the world,” he says, “the love of the Father is not in you if you love the world.” He says, “If you love the world you’re committing adultery in your relationship with God.”

“If you’re a friend of the world,” James says, chapter 4, “you become an enemy with God.” One of the huge issues in our day is we think we can love the world and love God too and think everything is okay. And God says, “It’s not. It’s not.”

And there was an old word that people used years and years ago. They were called “Worldly Christians,” have you ever heard that? They don’t use it anymore. It’s because it so identifies how so many of us, according to all the studies, actually live.

This worldliness is having the same aspirations, the same desires, the same MO, and it’s wanting Jesus to help me get all that stuff the world has. And the principle is: Love not the world. It will bite you.

You know what? If you don’t believe it get a tea, a coffee, an ice water, or a diet coke and just read chapters 12 through 18 and swallow hard, baby.

If you want to see, the world looks pretty and the glitter, and the hair blowin’, and the Playboy picture, and the mansion, and all these cable channels, and all the reality TV, and I’m bi-sexual, I’m tri-sexual, I’m quatri-sexual, you know?

I’ve had more surgeries than you, and if I marry you, and twenty women who all have no self-dignity want to marry this one bachelor who is an absolute jerk and, then you got this other beautiful babe and these ten guys that line up and act like fools. And it’s complete sensuality.

And the only reason they keep having all these reality shows is people keep watching them. And supposedly there’s, what is it? Forty million born-again believers? But I got news for you. By and large, we watch the same stuff, we read the same stuff, we buy the same stuff, we pursue the same stuff, and we look like the world.

And God says, “You know what? If you want to see what it really looks like and where it’s going, read chapters 17 and 18, that’s what I think of it. It’s empty. Stuff can’t satisfy you, looks will never come through, charm is deceitful, beauty is vain.” Fear God.

Now that doesn’t mean you have to get clothes that are out of style in the last twenty-five years, and buy very large, black Bibles, become obnoxious and self-righteous, and put “Praise the Lord” stickers on the back of your car.

It’s not the external things that make you not worldly. Not being worldly is an issue of the heart…. where your heart is His. And you say, “The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life – I don’t…”

Because this next verse, verse 17, that’s 15 and 16, “And the things of the world are passing away but he who does the will of God abides forever.” And that’s the hope! The promise, the principle, is the I John 2:15 and 16 are, “Love not the world” principle.

The hope is justice finally, and fully, prevails. He who does the will of God lives forever. The hope is you’re not going to be left out, the hope is, yes, it’s kind of hard and you’re kind of out of step at times but He says, negatively, every person who has ever done these evil things is going to get their just reward. And positively, every person that has trusted God will be duly rewarded.  And so He says, “That’s your hope.” He who does the will of God abides forever.”

Now we’ve got just enough time, so let’s pick it up. You follow along, chapter 19 and let’s roll through it.

Chapter 19, the Second Advent or Second Coming of Christ, a vast crowd in heaven begins praising the Lamb for His wrath on a corrupt whore – that’s how God sees the world.

The reasons for this judgment: Their false religious system is condemned on two accounts. They corrupted the earth with immorality, verse 2, and they murdered the saints of God, second half of verse two.

The rejoicing over this judgment, verses 3 to 5, this is where we get the song, “Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah!” The singers, there’s a vast multitude, the twenty-four elders join in. They’re praising the Lamb.

And now for this wedding, and the wedding feast of the Lamb that’s going to occur. The clothing of the bride – she wears the cleanest, whitest, finest linens. Those are people that are not of the world. The chastening of the apostle, John is rebuked, he starts to worship this angel and this angel goes, “Dude, dude, stop!” That’s Hebrew. I’m just messing with you.

He says, “Don’t worship me! Hey, this is the moment. It’s only Jesus [who is to be worshiped].” Then we get the appearance of heaven’s king, look at verse 19. John sees Jesus who is called Faithful and True seated on a white horse, coming from heaven.

That’s what you need to remember. He is faithful and He is true. And you live in a world of deception and falsehood, and people and things that won’t come through. He is faithful and true for you and your life.

His eyes are flaming, He’s wearing many crowns - different word for crowns. These are the diadems. These are the ruling crowns. His robe is dipped in blood. It’s been out of compassion and mercy and love that even the harshest judgments – whosoever – no one would get a raw deal. The only people that will be separated from Christ forever are people who choose to turn away from Him and not receive His love.

He holds a sword in Him mouth. The armies accompany Him from heaven, they are dressed in fine linen, they follow Him on white horses. And there’s the avenging of heaven’s King. He defeats the Antichrist and the False Prophet, look at the very end, I like this part. He just slam dunks them in the lake of fire. The armies are utterly destroyed, Jesus destroys the Antichrist and the False Prophet.

And then what you see, and I just want you to check the very beginning because I think they go together. And chapter 20, “And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand the great chain. And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and he bound Him for a thousand years. And he threw him into the Abyss, and locked and sealed it over him, to keep him from deceiving the nations anymore until a thousand years were ended. And after that, he must be set free for a short time.”

And we’ll learn why God does that, and that thousand years, and the new heaven and the new earth. But the principle in this section is the I John 4:4 principle. The John 4:4 principle: “Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world.”

There have been seven seals, seven trumpets, seven bowls; there has been evil, there has been Satan, there has been the Antichrist; the evil world system, the political system; there has been deception and through it all – Faithful and True. “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.”

He can overcome the slander, the condemnation, the accusations, the deception, the injustice, and the pain and jot down, if you would, Ephesians chapter 6. Your defense, your defense of putting on your position in Christ in a hostile, fallen world is outlined in Ephesians 6:10 to 18.

And you need to understand that passage and know how to appropriate it because it’s true that greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world but if you do not know how to deal with the things coming at you in the world and spiritual opposition, you’ll fall and you’ll fail.

But it’s not because God hasn’t provided everything that we need. But that’s the principle. He’s victorious.

And here’s our hope: The hope is Jesus defeats Satan, evil, and wickedness for all time. We are eternal winners and co-reign with Him. We co-reign. Jesus wins, we win.

My application here is we can endure anything when we look at today’s struggle through the lens of tomorrow’s certainty. You can endure anything, I can endure anything. We can endure a tough marriage, we can endure health issues, we can endure a mate walking out on us, we can endure people who treat us unjustly, we can endure getting treated in a church like no one should be treated in a church. Right? That happens too. You can endure cancer.

We can endure anything when we look at today’s struggles through the lens of tomorrow’s certain victory. And there is One coming on a white horse – He’s Faithful and True – and if you put your faith in Christ, He lives in you.