THE REVELATION OF CHRIST
Lesson Number 34
THE RESPONSE OF HEAVEN
"After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her. Again they said, "Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever! And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, Amen! Alleluia! Then a voice came from the throne, saying, Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great! And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, "Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!" (Rev 19:1-6, NKJV)
The fall of Babylon has been announced by heaven. "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication" (14:8). The fall is a most significant one, and has produced a variety of responses. All those who are alienated from God, and are of the world, react harmoniously. Standing at a distance from her smoking embers, the kings of the earth lament, "Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come" (Rev 18:10). The "merchants of the earth" also stand aloof from the burning city, lamenting because no one bought their merchandise any more. Pouring out their anguish they cry, "Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls! For in one hour such great riches came to nothing" (V 16-17). Even "the shipmasters," who plied their trade on the high seas, stand back from the fallen city, grieving over the impact of its demise upon their trade. "What is like this great city? . . . Alas, alas, that great city, in which all who had ships on the sea became rich by her wealth! For in one hour she is made desolate" (V 18-19).
A Rare Occurrence
Rarely does earth join so harmoniously in any effort-particularly that of lamentation. Those who are of this world conspired together AGAINST the Lord's Christ. Now they join together in grief at the removal of His enemy, Babylon! If we had no other information about "men of the world, which have their portion in this life" (Psa 17:14), this should be sufficient to cause us to shun their influence upon us. Solemnly, Jesus affirms He has taken us "out of the world," and that we are no longer of that order (John 15:19).
The Way of the World
While Babylon the great chose to embrace the reasoning patterns and manners of this world, God has chosen quite differently. "But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence" (1 Cor 1:27-29).
The advantages given to the believer are from another realm-another order. "Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God" (1 Cor 2:12). From the viewpoint of the world, believers are the garbage of the world. They think nothing of defaming and discarding the saints of God. As it is written, "We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now" (1 Cor 4:13).
The Basics of This World
The "basic principles of the world," or the foundations upon which its reasoning and philosophies are based, are in sharp conflict with those of the Lord. They are categorically said to be "NOT of Christ" (Col 2:8). Its most lofty ideals and perceptions cannot effectively deal with sin and transgression (Col 2:20-22). Whoever is a "friend of the world," by that very association, has become "the enemy of God" (James 4:4). Scarcely can we find a more solemn declaration.
Good to Men, Contemptible to God
When, therefore, we read of great lamentation from those who are of the world, we are confronting the fall of something opprobrious and contemptible before the Lord. As our blessed Lord said, "For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God" (Lk 16:15). This is precisely what spiritual Babylon is: an attempt to merge religion with "this present evil world." It is an effort to please men, and to develop something highly regarded by them. The attempt was not an effort to please God, but to please men. The Spirit informs us that at the point we seek to please men, we abruptly cease to be a servant of Christ (Gal 1:10). There are no exceptions to this. The ramifications of this are arresting!
The Shifting of the Scene
Now the scene shifts to the heavenly realms. We hear no lamentation there at the fall of Babylon! There is no sympathy or tolerance for corrupt religion in the higher precincts. Many who presently occupy that realm tasted of the world's oppression, paying for their faith with their very lives. We have already heard a heavenly shout, summoning both holy Apostles and Prophets to rejoice at the collapse of Babylon. Her wealth is gone, together with her whorish influence. No longer can she give advantages to men, cause them to be great, or reward them for aligning themselves with her. Her influence crumbles, her objectives fail, and she is brought to nothing by the God with Whom she contended. Heaven will be glad about the very thing causing sorrow on earth.
A MULTITUDE IN HEAVEN
"After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven . . . "
Salvation Is Not Insignificant
It is good for believers to remember they are part of something exceedingly large. Too, often we are tempted to think of God's "great salvation" with a view limited to our place and time-as though it were something temporal. But this is not a fair evaluation of the case, and does not bring honor to the Lord. Rest assured, the Almighty God did NOT invest of Himself, send His Son, lay the iniquities of the world upon Him, and make Him to be sin, to save a handful of people! He did not raise the Son from the dead, set Him at His own right hand in the heavenly places, and deliver all authority in heaven and earth for the sake of a meager few. An infinitely wise and powerful God did not marshal an enumerable company of angels, send forth the Holy Spirit, and appoint Apostles and Prophets to garner a smattering of souls. He did not spend 1,500 years teaching and preparing humanity through the Law so that only a representative number of our race might be saved.
What About References to Few?
This is not to minimize the words of our Lord. "Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it" (Matt 7:14). "For many are called, but few chosen" (Matt 20:16; 22:14). We must not skim the surface of these words! Rather, we must strive to understand them.
On one occasion, Peter pointedly asked, "Lord, are there few who are saved?" (Lk 13:23). Jesus did not answer in the affirmative. Instead, He gave a solemn warning. "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able. When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, 'Lord, Lord, open for us,' and He will answer and say to you, 'I do not know you, where you are from,' then you will begin to say, 'We ate and drank in Your presence, and You taught in our streets.' But He will say, 'I tell you I do not know you, where you are from. Depart from Me, all you workers of iniquity.' There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out" (Lk 13:24-28).
Jesus was saying that "few" of that generation would be saved. As grievous as it was to ponder, the majority of the generation to whom Jesus and the Apostles ministered rejected their words. But Jesus did not let the matter drop there. That was not the only generation. Hear His comforting words, for they include your own response to the Gospel. "They will come from the east and the west, from the north and the south, and sit down in the kingdom of God. And indeed there are last who will be first, and there are first who will be last" Verses 29-30). Matthew records, "And I say to you that many will come from east and west, and sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt 8:11).
Bear with me while I develop this further. It is food for the soul, and will bring strength to the heart. In our consideration of whom will be saved, we must recall these words. "I was sought by those who did not ask for Me; I was found by those who did not seek Me. I said, 'Here I am, here I am,' To a nation that was not called by My name" (Isa 65:1). Paul confirmed this marvelous prophecy in Romans 10:20. "But Isaiah is very bold and says: I was found by those who did not seek Me; I was made manifest to those who did not ask for Me." Paul also says of the mass of humanity-the Gentiles-"Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith" (Rom9:30). We should not be surprised at this! Nineveh did not send for Jonah! The Jews in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost were not seeking a visitation from God! The people in Samaria were not asking for salvation to come to their city!
All of these, and more, represent Divine initiatives. They do not obviate the necessity of human response, but they do make it more likely. Here and there, men have arisen who were aggressive to seek the Lord, even when it was not fashionable. They include Enoch, Noah, Job, and others. But they were few and far between. Abraham was found by God when he was not seeking Him. God also appeared to Moses in an abrupt manner, intruding into the normalcy of life. We should not allow ourselves to think such things are impossible in our day! The conversions of Cornelius and his house, the household of Lydia, and the Philippian jailor all occurred without human planning. They involved the Living God, the Spirit of God, the preaching of the Gospel, and the response of those who heard it. But there was an element of Divine orchestration in them all that must be seen.
I have taken the time to declare this because we are now faced with "a great multitude in heaven." I want you to see that we should not be staggered by the sight. We should not be astonished that a "great salvation" does, in the end, display great results! We dare not judge the effectiveness of the Gospel by our generation, anymore than the Apostles could judge it by their generation. It DOES appear that we have lived in a perverse generation that, for the most part, has rejected the Lord. But God has not concluded His purpose yet. In the end, there will be "a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!" (Rev 7:9-10). Today, men can count how many profess the Lord. They can tally up how many were martyred, and present their counts without challenging the ability of men to compute or calculate. But when God's "eternal purpose" has been fulfilled, and the enemies of the Lord have been made His footstool, we will see the great results of a great God, Who worked a great salvation! Nothing about salvation is small, insignificant, or unimpressive.
WHO IS THIS GREAT MULTITUDE?
The KJV reads, "much people," while other versions read "great multitude." Is there a difference? Indeed, there is! The word used here is (oxlou), which is consistently used to refer to a large number of people. It is so used 25 times in the New Testament-always referring to people, and never to angels or demons (Matt 27:24; Mk 7:17,33; 8:1; 9:17; 10:46; Lk 8:4; 9:38; 11:27; 12:1,13; 18:36; 19:3,39; 22:6; John 5:13; 7:31,32,40; Acts 19:33; 21:35; 24:12,18; rev 19:1,6). I do not believe Robertson is correct in saying "this is probably the voice of the angelic hosts." While there is a vast number of angels, they are specifically identified when their activities are considered-whether they are holy angels or those under Satan (Rev 1:20; 3:5; 5:11; 7:1,2,11; 8:2,6,13; 9:14,15; 12:7,9; 14:10; 15:1,6,7,8; 16:1; 17:1; 21:9,12).
An Important Consideration
While this may appear to be a theological bypath, it is anything but that. The vastness of the foes against which we are aligned is NEVER accentuated. Consistently, the NATURE of the foe is emphasized, not the number of them (Eph 6:12; 1 Pet 5:8; 2 Cor 11:15). In the words of Elisha to his fearful servant, "Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them" (2 Kgs 6:16). Do not think for a single moment that our enemies outnumber those who are for us. They do not!
The vastness of the redeemed that are on the other side, so to speak, is intended to bring comfort to our hearts. We "are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses" (Heb 12:1, NIV). An awareness of them will contribute to our strength and stamina. We are part of something exceedingly large, and it strengthens the heart to think upon it.
This multitude, then, is nothing less than "the spirits of just men made perfect" (Heb 12:23). Many of them had suffered at the hands of spiritual Babylon, and some had even been beheaded by her. When Babylon falls, there is an instant response among them. No silent meditation now! They burst forth together with a "great," or "loud voice." They join together in one accord at the triumph of the Lord. The picture is that of these rejoicing spirits drowning out the laments of the kings, merchants, and shipmasters of the earth.
John heard the heavenly multitude because joy overcomes sorrow. The triumphant shout of the redeemed overshadows the sorrow of this world which "works death" (2 Cor 7:10). It is our business to tune our hearts NOW to heaven's melody. Here, in this world, we must learn to respond correctly, and in harmony with the heavenly multitude. God is honored by such responses.
THE ASCRIPTION OF SALVATION
" . . . saying, Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God!"Men have long debated what makes salvation effective. The devil has driven a giant wedge in the Christian community over this issue. Some feel the burden of salvation is placed upon men. These emphasize the "free will" of man, and affirm that he casts the deciding vote. One, representing this emphasis, has said: "The Lord casts a vote for you, and the devil casts a vote against you. You cast the deciding vote." With all of the revelation about the human will and the responsibility of men to believe the Gospel and embrace the Lord, it is never stated in that manner in God's Word. Men take too much upon themselves when they say they cast the deciding vote-or anything similar to it. Such reasoning has the sound of the world in it, and is abrasive to the sensitive spirit.
Four times in this passage (19:1-6), we hear the shout "ALLELUIA" from the heavenly realms (Verses 1,3,4,6). These are the only uses of the word in the New Testament Scriptures.
This is a universal word meaning "praise ye the Lord." That particular phrase is used 25 times in Genesis through Malachi: once in Judges (5:2), once in Jeremiah (Jer 20;13), and 23 times in the Psalms (104:35; 105:45; 106:1,48; 111:1; 112:1; 113:1,9; 116:19; 117:2; 135:1,21; 146:1,10; 147:1,20; 148:1,14; 149:1,9; 150:1,6). It is an admonition, prompted by insight into the working of the Lord.
The great multitude associate the fall of Babylon with the execution of God's will. They also perceive the Lord has done this, and that the work brings glory to Him. They are calling upon all intelligent beings to see in the fall of Babylon something for which God is to praised. His purpose has been fulfilled in its fall! His people have been advantaged by its fall! Satan has been overthrown in its fall!
Salvation to God!
We now hear insightful spirits, who are no longer subjected to the philosophical ranting of men in the flesh. There is no question among them concerning the salvation they have experienced. With power and glory they ascribe salvation itself to the Lord. It is "His salvation" (1 Chron 16:23; Psa 35:9; 85:9; Isa 25:9). It is called "the salvation of God," NOT the salvation of God AND man (Psa 50:23; Lk 3:6; Acts 28:28). Jesus is declared to be the "Author" of this salvation (Heb 5:9). With a power that shakes the wisdom of men God is said to have "appointed" us to "obtain salvation by our lord Jesus Christ" (1 Thess 5:9). There is no theological position or persuasion that can erase these words from Scripture or nullify their power to the believing heart.
When considering your own salvation, trace it back to God! This is what Paul did (Acts 26:13-18). This may appear to be a technical point, but it is not. Paul did not trace his conversion back to when he made a decision, but to when the Lord appeared to him. There is a remarkable consistency in Scripture concerning this matter. On the day of Pentecost, men changed when they were "pricked in their hearts" (Acts 2:37). The Ethiopian eunuch was born again following a Divine initiative (Acts 8:29). The conversion of Cornelius was traced back to a Divine initiative (Acts 10; 14:27). Lydia's conversion followed the opening of her heart by the Lord (Acts 16:14). The "word of salvation" was "sent" by God to the people (Acts 13:26).
Jesus spoke on this subject, leaving no doubt about the Source of salvation. "No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:44). "Therefore I have said to you that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted to him by My Father" (John 6:65). Admittedly, this is a high view, but it is a true and precise one. Only people in the flesh have questions about why men are saved, and why their salvation was effective. Those who have departed the body have no question about it at all. They know all to well what Jonah learned by hard experience, "Salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9).
When we come to Christ as He asks us to do (Matt 11:28), we are to acknowledge we have been drawn there-that is what He said. Coming to Him is like entering a door that has the words "WHOSOEVER WILL" over its top. Those words are surely true (Rev 22:17). No one will ever receive salvation who does not want it. Once we are in Christ, however, if we look back at the very entrance that emphasized our willingness, we will see another sign: "He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world" (Eph 1:4). If you cannot fit the two together in this world, rest assured, you will be able to do it in the world to come.
Salvation in its entirety is traced back to God. While in this world, we were brought to salvation through the message of the Apostles and Prophets-but salvation does not belong to them. It belongs to God! Holy men of God, ministers He has given to every man, were involved in us believing (1 Cor 3:5)-but salvation does not belong to them. It belongs to God! The body of Christ, "Jerusalem which is above" is "the mother of us all" (Gal 4:26)-but salvation does not belong to it. Salvation belongs to God! It is our business to become acquainted with this and confess it BEFORE we join the heavenly throng. Salvation belongs to the Lord our God!
Elaborating on this pivotal aspect of our salvation, the Spirit says, "For of Him and through Him and to Him are ALL THINGS, to whom be glory forever. Amen" (Rom 11:36). And again, "Now ALL THINGS are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ" (2 Cor 5:18). And again, "In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works ALL THINGS according to the counsel of His will" (Eph 1:11). And again, "For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are ALL THINGS, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings" (Heb 2:10).
The glorifying affirmation of heaven, therefore, that salvation "belongs to our God" is in keeping with everything that has been revealed about it. This vast multitude gathers everything related to salvation from the beginning to the end, and in a loud voice traces it all back to God!
What Has Just Occurred Relates to Salvation
The fall of Babylon the great, therefore, does not refer to political matters, but to those relating to salvation! Those who view this sacred volume as a commentary on an antichrist and the formation of a world power do greatly err. Worse still are those who foolishly view this section as having nothing whatsoever to do with the church, the body and bride of Christ Jesus.
The church is the object of God's great salvation. Jesus loved "the church" and gave Himself "for it" (Eph 5:25). This is the appointed "pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim 3:15), and the exclusive recipient of His "fulness" (Eph 1:23). The exceeding greatness of God's "manifold wisdom" is now being made known to heavenly principalities and powers "by the church" (Eph 3:10). Salvation is never dissociated from the church! The ascription of salvation to God, therefore, assumes that the overthrow of Babylon directly related to the church, and the salvation conferred upon it.
Babylon represents Satan's primary assault upon the body of Christ. It is his corruption of the truth, and was designed to subtly lure people away from the Savior. Deliverance from its delusion and power, whether in coming out of her or in her final overthrow, is an aspect of God's great salvation. The heavenly realms immediately make that association. There is no reason why we cannot do the same.
Glory and Honor and Power
As with salvation, these attributes "belong unto the Lord." They belong to Him because they are the expressions of His nature. They owe their existence to Him, and belong preeminently to Him.
GLORY has to do with the manifestation or revealing of God's Person. The fall of Babylon is seen as the Lord's doing, and therefore the multitude immediately think of Him when they hear "Babylon is fallen."
HONOR AND POWER refer to dignified and a holy manner in which evil was overcome. God always acts in a manner that reveals Who He really is. Unlike we mortals, His words and deeds are never contrary to His Person. His "power" includes not only His ability, but His authority or right to use it. Some men have power, but use it wrongly.
Five times in this book, these three qualities are ascribed to the Lord.
This is a book that expounds salvation. From beginning to end it affirms it is all of God. He authored salvation, He is now working it out in the earth, and He will bring it to a glorious completion. The fall of Babylon the great is involved in that working. The people of God will be delivered from its harassing presence, and are to live in hope of that deliverance. Take hold of the message and rejoice!
TRUE AND RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENTS
"For true and righteous are His judgments . . . "Judgment, or the carrying out of a decree, is one thing. Righteous judgment is something else. As foolish as it may appear, there are people who do not believe what God does it right. They not only question His authority to do what He wills, they also doubt its correctness. Thus, some become angry with God (which is a despicable sin, and not to be tolerated among the people of God). Such foolish thoughts are "imaginations" that are to be "cast down," not entertained (2 Cor 10:5-6). Babylon has produced an environment that encourages rebellion and an incorrect assessment of God and His work.
Some become complacent, thinking there is no need to resist evil or make an effort to do good. They imagine that God has made them one way or another, and they actually find fault with Him for what He has done. To such this word of the Lord is given. "You will say to me then, 'Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?' But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, 'Why have you made me like this?'" (Rom 9:19-20).
Settle it in your mind now, WHAT GOD DOES IS RIGHT! The fall of Babylon will be right! Even though the kings of the earth lament her demise, it will be right. Although the merchants of the earth considered her presence essential, yet her fall as right. In spite of the shipmasters assessment of her worth, it will be right when she falls. The heavenly multitude confess, "For true and righteous are His judgments!"
By saying His judgments are "true," the Spirit is emphasizing they are genuine, real, and dependable. They are in perfect harmony with God's nature. They also are inevitable, and cannot be overthrown. They are also correct and not to be questioned.
The heavenly multitude sees the fall of Babylon as something God would do; i.e., it is His character to overthrow such a monstrosity. They also see it as correct, without fault, and deserving. In seeing the fall of Babylon, therefore, there is no question about the cause. It is obviously something God has done, and He is therefore given glory. Beholding His working is a prelude to praising Him!
This very truth is stated repeatedly in the Word. "The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether" (Psa 19:9). "Righteous are You, O LORD, And upright are Your judgments" (Psa 119:137). "The entirety of Your word is truth, And every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever" (Psa 119:160). "Even so, Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments" (Rev 16:7).
High and Lofty Ways
The working of the Lord cannot be deciphered by the flesh. His ways are too high for unregenerate people to perceive them. As it is written, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts" (Isa 55:8-9). This condition causes carnal men to question the validity of Divine judgments. It also provokes them to lament over what He does as though no good has come from it. All such responses evidence an aloofness from the Lord and a unity with the condemned order. This is always a serious condition.
A Classic Example
In another place, the Spirit deals with the ways and judgments of God. He proclaims they are lofty, and yet they are right. They are to be received without question. In particular, God's dealings with the Jews and Gentiles are expounded. He gave the Jews the law, and then rejected them because of their unbelief. He did not give the Gentiles the Law, and yet received them even though they did not seek Him. He concluded both Jews and Gentiles in unbelief that He might have mercy on them all. He provoked the Gentiles to jealousy through the Jews, and then provoked the Jews to jealousy through the Gentiles (Rom 11:26-32). All of this seems out of order to the flesh. Yet, faith rises to the occasion and joyfully acknowledges God's dealings were RIGHT. "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor? Or who has first given to Him And it shall be repaid to him? For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen" (Rom 11:33-36).
The Judgment of Babylon
The judgment of Babylon is much the same. It arose because of Divine judgment. The professed church lost is love for the truth, and thus God sent them "strong delusion, that they should believe a lie" (2 Thess 2:11-12). Then Babylon is judged because it exploited those having a love for the truth, opposing them and doing them harm. The whole matter, from beginning to end is absolutely right. Those in the heavenly realms recognize this and glorify God by declaring it. We are told of the matter in order that we might enter into the joyful recognition of the Lord's doing. It is also intended to alert us to the necessity of avoiding ensnarement by Babylon.
All of this means it would be wrong for Babylon to remain. Such a condition would contradict the truth and be at variance with the Divine nature. For this religious corruption to continue to flourish and remain unjudged, would reflect upn the integrity of God.
It is also apparent that Babylon cannot be reformed or made good. It has already been judged in the Divine counsels. It is only a matter of time until it is brought down, bringing honor and glory to God. We must zealously avoid attachment to it, lest we suffer when it falls. Just as surely as its fall is determined, the salvation of those refusing its dominance is also determined.
THE GREAT HARLOT
" . . . because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her."Our text is not needless repetition, although it appears to be so to the flesh. The fall of Babylon the great is now viewed as the "judgment of the great harlot." Even though this has been said before, it is again emphasized by the Spirit, as He speaks to the churches. The Lord knows that men encounter great difficulty in thinking of these things. They tend to have a sympathy for lifeless religious organization, even though it is never lauded, but always condemned, in God's word.
Solemnly, the Spirit warned early believers of a time when men would "not endure sound doctrine" (2 Tim 4:3). Men, "according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers," turning away "their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables" (2 Tom 4:3-5). He told them of perilous times in which men would embrace a "form of godliness," but reject "the power thereof" (2 Tim 3:5). Ruthless teachers, referred to as "grievous wolves," would "enter" among God's people, "not sparing the flock" (Acts 20:29). With remarkable precision (the Spirit speaking "expressly") men were told of circumstances in the "latter times." Some (praise God, not all!) would "depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons," all the while maintaining a Christian appearance (1 Tim 4:1).
Being a Good Minister
Paul told young Timothy that if he continued to "instruct the brethren in these things," he would be a "good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed" (1 Tim 4:6).
The general absence of this type of instruction indicates a seriously deficient spiritual condition. Remember, we are hearing the Lord's assessment of false religion. During Apostolic times it was difficult to believe such corruption could dominate the Christian world. Even John, when beholding this "harlot," confessed, "And when I saw her, I marveled with great amazement" (17:6). Her presence defied carnal explanation.
In our time, the situation is quite different. What the Lord said would "come to pass" in the latter times has occurred. What is more, the presence of religious corruption is not as abrasive to the hearts of professed believers as it was to John the Beloved. The very presence of evil tends to dull the sensitivity of men, and lull them into spiritual sleep. Without exerting ourselves to remain spiritually awake and alert, we will soon get used to the presence of what God hates. Men are tempted to offer too many explanations for the presence of religious systems they sense are less than acceptable. However, unbelief and complacency cannot be justified. They are always wrong, and are consistently rejected by both God and Christ. They are a seed-bed in which Satan works without restraint. In a spiritually dead environment, the truth cannot work, the Spirit is quenched, and condemned flesh is therefore accepted. God simply will not receive these conditions.
These conditions demand that the Spirit elaborate on the fall of Babylon, lest we be put to sleep by the wicked one. A lack of sensitivity among professed believers enables Satan to work freely among them. Knowing the truth, on the other hand, will make men "free" (John 8:32).
The GREAT Harlot
" . . . because He has judged the great harlot . . . " Babylon is not merely a harlot, but "THE great harlot." The expression is taken from the Greek words µ, which literally are translated, "the harlot the greatest." The Amplified Bible translates the phrase, "the great and notorious harlot [idolatrous]."
Here is the GREATEST form of unfaithfulness-the most grievous kind of fornication. It is worse than the fleshly fornication, which itself excludes people from the Kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9; Gal 5:20-22; 1 Tim 1:10). Those who commit fornication will be judged by God (Heb 13:4). In this text, however, we are seeing fornication of even a worse order. If those who, by fornication, sin against their own body (1 Cor 6:18), and are condemned to the lake of fire (Rev 21:8), what of those guilty of an even worse form of fornication?
"The great harlot" has been unfaithful to God! She has worn His name, yet courted and become involved with the world. Her intimacy was not with the Lord Who purchased her, but with the world and the devil, who have been summarily and totally rejected and condemned by the Lord.
Long before the dominance of this great harlot, James wrote, "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God" (James 4:4). With great solemnity David wrote, "For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee" (Psa 73:27). To wayward Israel the Lord cried out, "But come here, You sons of the sorceress, You offspring of the adulterer and the harlot!" (Isa 57:3).
Do you wonder how God feels about those who do not walk with Him-who refuse involvement with Him, and walk in the flesh? There is so much in the Word of God on this, one wonders how it can be missed. Hear His lament over recalcitrant Israel. "Oh, that I had in the wilderness a lodging place for travelers; That I might leave my people, and go from them! For they are all adulterers, An assembly of treacherous men" (Jer 9:2). Jesus identified the very generation to whom He appeared and ministered as "a wicked and adulterous generation" (Matt 12:39; 16:4).
Babylon is the GREATEST harlot. It is the worse corruption, and most serious departure from the Lord. He is more angry with her than with the heathen nations! If one doubts this, consider the manner in which our Lord spoke to the corrupted Pharisees, Sadducees, Scribes, and Lawyers. He was completely intolerant of them, and offered not a shred of hope to them. Have you forgotten His words? "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! . . . how can ye escape the damnation of hell? . . . Therefore you will receive greater condemnation . . . you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves . . ." (Matt 23:13,14,15,33).
For those who wear the name of Jesus to embrace the world, they must forsake the Lord. To become a friend of the world, whether an individual or a group, Christ must be rejected. If the wisdom of the world is adopted, the wisdom of God is refused. If men seek to please men, they abruptly stop serving God. It is not possible to serve two masters! Our allegiance cannot be given to the Lord and to the world at the same time. We cannot court the world and fellowship with Christ simultaneously. This is precisely what Jesus meant when He said, "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other" (Matt 6:24). It makes no difference how much effort is spent attempting to serve the world AND God, it simply CANNOT be done. A choice is made to serve one or the other. That choice is known by God.
What makes this "harlot" the worst one is that she still retains the name of the Lord. She is like an adulterous wife who keeps her husband's name, yet is intimate with others. In the earth, harlotry, or whoredom, can be committed with a friend of the husband/wife. But this is not the case in spiritual matters. What compounds this problem is that the spiritual harlotry is with God's ENEMY.
The false church wears Jesus' name, but actually has no identity with Him. He is not involved with her, and she is not involved with Him. She says she is religious, but she is idolatrous. She makes claim to being Christ's church, but is actually His enemy. All of her religion is vain, and is actually offensive to God. Of her best and most impressive rituals God says what He said to disobedient Israel, "When you come to appear before Me, Who requires of you this trampling of My courts? Bring your worthless offerings no longer, Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and Sabbath, the calling of assemblies-- I cannot endure iniquity and the solemn assembly. I hate your new moon festivals and your appointed feasts, They have become a burden to Me. I am weary of bearing them" (Isa 1:12-14, NASB).
This is no mere conjecture, for God is declaring the overthrow of Babylon, the greatest form of harlotry, in the Revelation. O, that men would take this matter more seriously, and come away from lifeless forms of religion. Let men cease their feeble attempts to justify what God cannot stand!
She Corrupted the Earth
" . . . who corrupted the earth with her fornication . . . " The Amplified Bible translates it, "who corrupted and demoralized and poisoned the earth with her lewdness and adultery [idolary]." Here we again see the extent of Babylon's influence. She is a bearer of poison and corruption. Wherever she is, everything is made worse, and nothing is made better. For some, this is too difficult to receive-yet it remains the truth. With the narcotic of her religion, she has lulled men off to sleep. They think less of the Lord because of her. They do not hate sin, because of her. They involve themselves with things that are an abomination to the Lord, doing so without a twinge of conscience-and all because of her! The wicked are not ashamed to wear the name of Jesus, because of her. Those whose hearts are far from the Lord, and who have no interest in Him and His great salvation, feel at liberty to become, what men call, Christians. There is not a syllable in all of God's Word that encourages them to think in this manner. It is because of Babylon, the great harlot, that they do so.
Babylon has "corrupted the earth." It has brought a curse upon the earth just as surely as Adam did (Rom 5:12-19). It is even a worse curse, because it comes in the name of Christ, offering help, answers, and guidance in spiritual matters.
When those wearing the name of Jesus live in the flesh, they open the door for the devil. They loose the powers of darkness, and cause men to feel comfortable in their sin. They cause any sense of discontent with sin to be removed, and lead men deeper into alienation from God. Spiritual Babylon is the greatest harlot, the foremost example of unfaithfulness, and the most significant form of spiritual death.
The Blood of God's Servants Avenged
" . . . and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her." The Amplified Bible reads, "And He has avenged-visited on her the penalty for-the blood of His servants." For years-often centuries-it seemed as though God had forgotten the blood of His servants. That assumption constrained Babylon to more readily oppose the saints, and engage in a suppression of the truth.
God's nature is to avenge the blood of His servants. "Rejoice, O Gentiles, with His people; For He will avenge the blood of His servants, And render vengeance to His adversaries; He will provide atonement for His land and His people" (Deut 32:43). Wherever His people are oppressed, the oppression will not be forgotten. You may remember Jesus told His disciples of religious oppression. In their case, it came from the Jews. "They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service" (John 16:2). This circumstance is also true of "the great harlot," Babylon "the great city."
But God will not forget the shedding of the blood of His people-he will not! This promise is made in the Revelation. "For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, And You have given them blood to drink. For it is their just due" (16:6). If the blood of Abel cried out from the ground (Gen 4:10), you can imagine what he blood of those who were slain "for the Word of God and for the testimony which they held" is crying (Rev 6:9).
Many of God's people have been viciously opposed by assumed brothers and sisters in Christ. Although their blood has been shed, God is not unmindful of their situation. Diotrophes, who "loved to have the preeminence" among the brethren, opposed the Apostle John and those with him, forbidding the church to receive them (3 John). Alexander the coppersmith opposed Paul, doing him much evil (2 Tim 4:14). Through John the Apostle, the Spirit informed us of the seriousness of hating the children of God. "He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now . . . But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes . . . Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him . . . If someone says, 'I love God,' and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?" (1 John 2:9,11; 3:15; 4:20).
A disdain for the people of God is one of the chief attributes of Babylon, the "great harlot." It cannot abide those who are in quest of heaven, love the Lord with all of their heart, and have crucified the flesh, with its affections and lusts. From this viewpoint, Babylon is a system that does not allow for being alive to God. It depends upon an alliance with the world. That is why it rejects those who "preach the Word." That is why it hates an emphasis upon eternal things, and those who have set their affection on things above, and not on things on the earth.
Before the Lord, their hatred and rejection of the people of God classes them as murderers-that is what the Spirit declares. It also confirms they are walking in darkness, and that their eyes have been blinded by it. Any profession of life toward God by such people is a lie, and is no truth at all. Whether they were guilty of shedding the blood of the saints in martyrdom, or rejecting them and their influence, God will avenge the saints upon her. She has made life more difficult for believers. Many a preacher has become fatigued dealing with lifeless assemblies. Numerous teachers have become casualties on the battlefield of Babylon. Countless believers have become weak and faint because of this monster.
"Again they said, "Alleluia! Her smoke rises up forever and ever!"For the second time the cry comes from the heavenly chambers, "ALLELUIA!" Praise ye the Lord! Give Him the glory for what has occurred! See His hand at work, and magnify His name! Babylon now appears like ancient Sodom, with "her smoke" rising up as "the smoke of a furnace" (Gen 19:28). This is the language of utter destruction!
It is also the language of the utter helplessness and frustration that attends being cursed by God. The situation is much like that of Joshua's destruction of Ai. "And when the men of Ai looked behind them, they saw, and behold, he smoke of the city ascended to heaven. So they had no power to flee this way or that way, and the people who had fled to the wilderness turned back on the pursuers. Now when Joshua and all Israel saw that the ambush had taken the city and that the smoke of the city ascended, they turned back and struck down the men of Ai" (Josh 8:20-21).
This is a fulfillment of the promise of the Psalmist concerning the wicked. "But the wicked shall perish; And the enemies of the LORD, Like the splendor of the meadows, shall vanish. Into smoke they shall vanish away" (Psa 37:20). And again, "As smoke is driven away, So drive them away; As wax melts before the fire, So let the wicked perish at the presence of God" (Psa 68:2).
There is coming a time when a diligent search for Babylon will yield no results at all. It will be gone forever: i.e., it will be taken away, never to rise again. No remnant of it will be left. No residue will survive her destruction. Finally the word will be fulfilled in every sense, "For yet a little while and the wicked shall be no more; Indeed, you will look carefully for his place, But it shall be no more" (Psa 37:10). No more jeopardy! No more conflict! No more opposition! No more grief! The day of Babylon's fall is surely coming.
THE FINAL AMEN
"And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who sat on the throne, saying, Amen! Alleluia!"For the first time since the fourteenth chapter, the twenty-four elders are mentioned (14:3). They are mentioned twelve times in this vision (4:4,10; 5:5,6,8,11,14; 7:11,13; 11:16; 14:3; 19:4). Always, their introduction comes in the wake of a great revelation, or unfolding of the Person and work of Christ. They have an intense interest in the salvation of God, and everything associated with it.
We first see them when exposed to the heavenly throne (4:4).
What is to be learned from all of this? First, these elders are mentioned in exclusive association with the salvation of God. It is a salvation wrought out and governed by the Lamb. It is a salvation that involves the prayers of the saints. They behold the salvation of God as the result of the Lamb's work, both past and present. They rejoice at the sight of a cleansed multitude, and delight to hear them sing praise to God. Now, they praise God for the demise of the great imposter, Babylon the great, or the great harlot.
All of this confirms that this book is about salvation, not the jostling of earthly empires. It is an account of the triumph of the Lamb, not a reign of terror by His enemy. These elders do not marvel at the rising of the beast, but rejoice at his demise. They do not wonder at the rise of Babylon, but glory in its dissolution. If we miss this truth, we will not profit from the book of Revelation. The vision John had will not be perceived as relevant unless it is seen in direct relation with the salvation we have in Christ Jesus.
While falling down and worshiping "God who sat upon the throne," they cry out "AMEN!" They have correctly perceived the fall of Babylon as directed from the heavenly Throne. "AMEN," they cry. Here, indeed, is a word not often heard within the precincts of Babylon. It is because they do not perceive a connection between what is seen and heard with the God of heaven. But the elders and the four living creatures perceive the association and cry out "AMEN!"
Ten times this word is used in the Revelation. It is even one of the names ascribed to the Lord Jesus Christ (3:14). Twice the word erupts from John in his opening remarks to the churches. "And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen. Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen" (1:5-6).
Jesus Himself uses the term when proclaiming His triumph over death and hell. "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death" (1:15). The four living creatures are noted for saying "Amen" (5:14). All the holy angels join in its use (7:12). John also shouts it out. "He who testifies to these things says, 'Surely I am coming quickly.' Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen" (22:20-21). Thirty-six times the word is used in Romans through Jude, and five times in the Gospels. In the giving of the Law, those to whom it was spoken were required to say "AMEN" (Num 5:22; Deut 27:15,16,17,18,19,20,21,22,23,24,25,26). At the return of the ark, all of the people shouted "AMEN," and praised the Lord (1 Chron 16:36). When Nehemiah and the people set themselves to rebuild the walls of the holy city, "all the assembly said AMEN and praised the Lord" (Neh 5:13). When Ezra opened the book of the Lord before the people, all the people stood up. After he had blessed the Lord, "all the people answered, 'Amen, Amen!' while lifting up their hands" (Neh 8:6). Three times the phrase "Amen and Amen" is used in the Psalms (41:13; 72:19; 89:52). It should be not be a strange word to us.
This should not be a strange word to us. It has been sanctified in its use by Jesus, the prophets, Israel, the apostles, the four living creatures, the twenty-four elders, and the redeemed in heaven.
The word "AMEN" is a response of insight and agreement. It confirms the one saying it has seen what the Lord has done and concurs with it. It takes all of the glory and honor and sends it back to God. The word also means "so be it," or let it stand just that way. It is an acknowledgment that the speaker would have it no other way. Literally, the word means "let it be so," "truly," "this is indeed true," and "that is the way it should be" (Thayers).
Thus, the heavenly responders have seen that what has occurred (the fall of Babylon)has come from God Himself. They see it as being just and right. They also acknowledge it should be no other way, fulfilling all of the requirements of a holy God. They are also willing to let it stand the way it is. They do not plead for Babylon. They do not ask for it to be given another chance. By saying "AMEN," they have acquiesced with Divine judgment, thereby glorying God.
By saying "Alleluia," the elders are urging that the work of God be recognized, and that praise be given to Him.
This is the heavenly environment. We do well to seek to emulate it upon earth. As we see the working of the Lord, whether in the overthrow of wickedness or the establishment of righteousness, we should agree by saying "AMEN!" It is also in order to summon our colleagues to the recognition of the work of God by saying "Alleluia!" Join us in praising Him! Praise, remember, is "comely" (Psa 33:1).
EVERYONE PRAISE HIM!
"Then a voice came from the throne, saying, Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!"When it comes to the praise of God, everything that "hath breath" is to be involved (Psa 150:6). Already those in immediate proximity to the throne are praising the Lord. But that is not enough! A great thing has occurred - something enhancing our perception of God. A work has been done that clarifies His intent and purpose, and opens up His nature more fully to us. Not only has God been seen in the redemption of humanity, He is also seen in the overthrow of those corrupting the truth and maligning His people.
Among men, great efforts are expended to bring honor to their peers. Those captured by the spirit of the world create special gatherings for the bestowing of honor upon those they consider worthy of the same. They give awards to those who can act well on the stage. They lift up those who can play well at sports. They even give prizes to those who are able to give the people what they want, satisfying their corrupt appetites in literature and other means. Praise is not something strange among men. When it ends with anyone other than God and Christ, however, it is never right!
The Source of the Voice
"Then a voice came from the throne." This voice does not come from Patmos. It comes from the Throne of the universe: the Source of all power, and the Originator of all things. In the world, great lamentation is heard at the fall of Babylon. But amidst the hopeless wailing of the kings, merchants, and shipmasters of this world, another voice is heard. It is a high and demanding voice. It beholds the same thing that has caused those of the world to lament. It speaks with authority.
The book Revelation is the opening of the reign of God and the Lamb. It is, in a very true sense, a "throne book." With remarkable consistency, it draws our attention away from the world and to the Throne. It expounds the One sitting there, and opens His purpose to us. It reveals the manner in which the government of this throne is conducted, and what will be the outcome of that government.
No less than forty-one times we read of this throne in Revelation-and it is ALWAYS a central consideration. Both blessing and judgment proceed from this throne. The purpose of God is executed from it, and all praise is uttered before it. Those who serve the Lord receive direction from this throne.
Now a voice comes from this throne. It is more than just a voice, it is like the voice of the Lord, coming "out from the throne." It is "powerful" and "full of majesty" (Psa 29:4). It breaks despotic powers, strikes as flashing lightning, and shakes the wilderness (Psa 29:5-8). This voice, while it was probably that of an angel, perfectly reflects the "mind of the Lord." It is in strict accord with His purpose, and is authoritative in its demands. Let us listen to it carefully.
"Praise our God, all ye His servants." Those who serve the Lord are to be first and foremost in the expression of praise. They are not only to engage themselves in His will, but be swift to recognize His work. Sensitivity to God's work is essential.
Holy angels are among these "servants" (Psa 104:4), and you see in Revelation how quick they are to praise their God (7:11-12). They are admonished to praise the Lord also. "Bless the LORD, ye his angels, that excel in strength, that do his commandments, hearkening unto the voice of his word. Bless ye the LORD, all ye his hosts; ye ministers of his, that do his pleasure" (Psa 103:20-21).
Now the call comes for "ALL" His servants to praise Him. It is another way of saying, Behold what I have done! It is a call to those who are ministering in behalf of the Lord. As the Psalmist would say, "Praise the LORD! Praise the name of the LORD; Praise Him, O you servants of the LORD! You who stand in the house of the LORD, In the courts of the house of our God" (Psa 135:1-2).
This is not "praise" as conceived by the contemporary church. Many boast of singing praise who are prompted more by a supposed leader than by spiritual insight. In this praise, there is no leader. Nor, indeed, are they asked to sing a series of songs or choruses. While there is certainly nothing wrong with that when done truthfully, that is not the point of the text. The praise that is called for will come from insight-from beholding the working of the Lord. In particular, it is prompted by an understanding that the Lord has brought Babylon, the great harlot, down in judgment. God is to be praised for that work!
If you are serving God, you must do so with an alert mind and sensitive heart. When the Lord works, both heaven and earth are to be filled with praise. This is a frame of spirit that Law cannot produce. Those who seek to serve the Lord out of a sense of slavish obligation will not be able to see what He is doing. Such service closes the eyes of the heart, confining awareness to the flesh.
This summons is like an awakening call. It bids us turn away from earthly responses and evaluations, that we might see things as they really are.
Those Who Fear Him
" . . . and those who fear Him, both small and great!" There is a society in the earth that "fear" the Lord. They stand in awe of Him, and will intentionally do nothing to displease Him. They are aggressive to do His will, and seek to be used by Him as extensively as possible.
All men are not in this category. Even in the midst of the plagues, the Egyptians were told, "I know that you will not yet fear the LORD God" (Ex 9:2). It is said of the wicked, "There is no fear of God before his eyes" (Psa 36:1). Again, the Lord said of the entire human race apart from Christ, "There is no fear of God before their eyes" (Rom 3:18). Such people are never admonished to praise the Lord. Nor, indeed, are they capable of doing so.
Those who are God's "servants" are those who truly "fear" Him. They do his bidding and seek His will. They vigorously shun things perceived as offensive to God, and look for His working among men. They are perceptive of His presence and have preference for His Word and work.
"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom" (Psa 111:10). The fear of the Lord is the threshold of all true wisdom. This is the entrance point for all proper reasoning and conclusion.
When the voice summons those who fear the Lord to praise Him, insightful and hearty praise is called for. There are no mere mechanics here!
The fall of Babylon is an occasion for glory to be brought to the Lord. This is so because of its significance. Here was Satan's chief and most productive work. As a beautiful and luring harlot, she had seduced the entire world, including kings, merchants, and those who traffic on the sea. She had wrested the truth from the grasp of the multitudes, taking away the "key of knowledge" as the Lawyers of Jesus' day (Lk 11:52. With wicked shrewdness, she had led the world into a false view of God, a corrupt understanding of the Scriptures, and a distorted view of salvation. In the name of Christ, she had allowed the world and its manners into the church. Those who were the closest to God were the furthest from her, and she knew it. Therefore she opposed the saints, even unto death when allowed to do so. She reigned virtually uncontested for centuries. She molded the way people thought about God, Christ, salvation, and the Scriptures as a whole. She crafted religious music, and created the professional clergy. She mastered the form and rejected Divine power. What a phenomenon she was!
But God overthrew her-decisively and forever. He did not allow her to continue one second beyond her appointed time. As soon as His purpose was served, the Lord removes Babylon. Therefore great praise is due His holy name.
THE LORD GOD OMNIPOTENT REIGNS!
"And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, "Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns!"
An Instant Response
There is an instant response to the voice from the throne. In the heavenly realms there is a glaring absence of the slowness and retardation that too often are found in the world. Slowness of heart is a serious condition, and is always rebuked, and never excused. Jesus upbraided the two on the road to Emmaus for being in this condition. "O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken" (Lk 24:25). To be "slow in heart" is to be dull, slow to comprehend, and slow to act. This is the result of living and reasoning in the flesh. The closer one is to the Lord, the less this condition exists. There is a place where the soul can reside where response is instant or immediate. It is also insightful and brings great glory to God.
Such is the response we are witnessing. The great multitude respond in the same manner as the aged prophetess Anna. Upon realizing she was in the presence of the promised Savior, "in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord" (Lk 2:38). They are alert to the heavenly frequency. O, that this trait were more prominent among those professing the name of Christ.
There are times when our very existence depends upon an instant response. There is a brief dialog in Jeremiah that confirms this to be the case. "The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it. And the instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it, if it does evil in My sight so that it does not obey My voice, then I will relent concerning the good with which I said I would benefit it" (Jer 18:7-10).
Whatever a person may think of the Sovereignty of God, and His power to do His will, it is good to remember what this text says. A lot of people have missed the blessing because they simply have been too slow to respond. Others have been spared of judgment because they were "quick to understand" (Dan 1:4). There are some people who will not see the real issues until they stand before the judgment seat of Christ. They will have no advantage at that time-none at all.
The heavenly multitude do not require a lengthy exhortation, or an insightful leader to expound the reasonableness of giving praise to God. Immediately, they respond to God's glory by affirming His greatness as seen in the fall of Babylon.
It goes without saying, the love of the truth and a disdain for error are required for such a response to be given. Those who possess these qualities will be glad when truth is openly established and the lie is obviously overthrown.
A Unified Response
We do not hear VOICES, but "the VOICE of a great multitude." The word "voice" is used three times in this verse. "voice of a great multitude . . . the voice of many waters . . . the voice of mighty thunderings." All three of these expressions refer to the utterance of the multitude. The sound is like the roar of a mighty cataract , or waterfall. It also bears resemblance to the arresting sound of a loud rolling clap of thunder. In all three cases, unmistakable UNITY is emphasized. The multitude shout with harmonious voice. The sound was like a single mighty waterfall, comprised of much water, but joined together in one mighty cascade of water. The sound was like thunder--like a rolling peal thunder, unmixed with confusing sounds.
Multitudes are not always noted for harmony-especially in this world. The building of the tower of Babel was disrupted when, due to Divine judgment, the people were not longer united in their speech (Gen 11:7-8). You may also remember when the city of Ephesus became involved in turmoil because of Paul's preaching. Of that occasion it is written, "Some therefore cried one thing and some another, for the assembly was confused, and most of them did not know why they had come together" (Acts 19:32). A multitude is more often an occasion for friction and disagreement rather than unity. In this world, the larger the gathering, the more possibility there is for and contradiction and disruption.
But it is not so in the heavenly places! Here is a most glorious aspect of dwelling near the throne-or walking in the light. Near the Throne, the more there are, the greater the unity. Personalities are pulled together as they are focused upon the Lord. They become so entwined with one another that they can speak with a single voice. That is what we have in our text, a multitude with ONE voice! Praise the Lord.
Such Unity Can Be Enjoyed Now
This type of unity can be enjoined now-in this world. It will be in measure, to be sure, but it will be glorious. It is possible to be "of one heart and one soul" (Acts 4:32). We are even admonished to "all speak the same thing," and be "be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Cor 1:10). It is possible for believers to "stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel" (Phil 1:27).
But we must dwell in "heavenly places" for this to occur. If men insist on remaining "in the flesh," this cannot be accomplished. Such unity is a heavenly trait, not a worldly one. Only to the degree that we join around the throne will we be able speak with one voice and have the same message.
A Commanding Response
This response is not happening in an undetected corner-a sort of private answer to the Divine summons. No secrecy here. The praise of this multitude reverberates throughout the heavenly domain like the sound of a gigantic waterfall and rolling thunder. God has spoken to man in a "still small voice" because of his present frailty (1 Kgs 19:12). But that is not the case when created beings speak in praise to God! Heavenly communications are consistently represented as "loud." Nineteen times this kind of voice is mentioned in this book. They are worth of noting.
This is perfectly consistent with the remainder of Scripture. God gave the law in a "loud voice" (Deut 5:22). The Levites gave Divine directives to the people with a "loud voice"(Deut 27:14). At the dedication of the temple, Solomon spoke before the people with a "loud voice" (1 Kings 8:55). Jesus' cry to God from the cross, concerning being forsaken, was in a "loud voice" (Matt 27:46). When He yielded up His spirit on the cross He did so with a "loud voice" (Matt 27;50). He summoned Lazarus from the grave with a "loud voice" (John 11:43). When Paul healed a man lame from birth, with a "loud voice" he commanded him to stand up (Acts 14:10). On the day of Pentecost, Peter "lifted up his voice" and spoke (Acts 2:14).
This is certainly not intended to bind laws upon the people of God, demanding that they speak with certain tones. However, there is an idea conveyed here that must be seen. When speaking with an acute awareness of God, the whole person is thrown into the activity. As the heart becomes exhilarated, even our speech is affected.
So it is with the commanding response that we hear. It is not an orchestrated response, like those fabricated by men. This is the response of insight-of those who have comprehended something. It comes from those upon whom the glory of God has dawned, who have beheld and delighted in His work.
The Lord God Omnipotent
Here is a most telling description of the Lord: "the Lord God Omnipotent." Other versions use the expression "the Almighty." This is the only place in any standard English Bible where the word "Omnipotent" is used. I like the word because it is arresting, provoking us to ponder the nature of our God.
From the standpoint of language definition, the word means "He who holds sway over all things; the ruler of all; almighty" (Thayers). There is nothing that is not subject to Him. There is no realm over which He does not preside. There is no enemy that does not answer directly to Him or is not subject to Him. His will is the dominant will.
Our Lord is "the Almighty God" (Gen 17:1). Nothing-absolutely nothing-is "too hard for the Lord" (Gen 18:24). Well did Job confess, "I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You" (Job 42:2). His strength is "everlasting strength" that cannot deteriorate or be overcome by another (Isa 26:4). It is still true, as Jesus said, "with God all things are possible" (Matt 19:26).
Spiritual Babylon has robbed people of the awareness of this truth. I fear that man's "free will" and imagined abilities has pushed this perspective of God into the background. Myriads of professed believers actually doubt that all things are possible with God. They do not pray as though He is Almighty. Neither do they live as though all things were possible with Him. Unwittingly (or perhaps wittingly) they have magnified man and reduced God.
With seeming innocence (that is really ignorance), men speak of "making Christ your Lord." It all may sound good, but it is not. That phrase is NEVER used in Scripture-in any version. There is not the slightest hint in all of Scripture that ANYONE exists over whom Christ is not Lord-particularly in the church! No less than seventy-five times believers are told of "our Lord"-not a potential Lord! Rather than receiving Him as Lord, we are told to CONFESS Him as Lord (Rom 10:9). Moreover, we are told that eventually every tongue will confess that He "IS Lord" (Rom 14:10; Phil 2:11).
Whether willingly or unwilling, Christ IS "Lord of ALL" (Acts 10:36). God has already "made" Him both "LORD and Christ" (Acts 2:36). There is no place in all of Scripture where it says God or Christ WILL be Lord. The Holy Spirit never moved a single person to say God or Christ OUGHT to be Lord. Any place and every place the Omnipotence, power, authority, or ability of God and Christ is mentioned, it is ALWAYS in the present-something already in possession and active. If God is Omnipotent (and he emphatically IS), it can be no other way.
Doubt and unbelief hide this reality from the human heart and mind. Those who say they are "angry with God" have denied His Omnipotence and authority. When weakness of heart comes upon us, it is because we have lost sight of this truth. Babylon is noted for its neglect of declaring the greatness of God. It has taught men to speak on a lower plain, as though everything depended upon men. As a result, the powers of hell have been loosed, and "strong delusion" has come upon men.
But those in heavenly realms know the truth! They affirm God IS "Omnipotent." They confess that power has been seen in the overthrow of Babylon, who thought it was invincible. In this great section, the rise and fall of Babylon are declared to have been under Sovereign control. Not a single soul in the Son was lost, and not a solitary personality in the power of the devil will be saved. Although the most subtle and powerful of all enemies aligned himself against the seemingly frail people of God, his purpose was not fulfilled. It is the purpose of God that realized fulfillment, for THE LORD GOD OMNIPOTENT REIGNS!
There is no reason why we cannot begin now-in this world-to enjoy this perspective. It is the truth, and no imagination. It will strengthen our hands for the battle, and cause us to cast our anchor upward instead of settling down in this world.
What a glorious confession! It is the shout of understanding! The power of God is not only possessed, it is employed. Our Lord's Omnipotence has been in place from the beginning. Even when our blessed Savior sheathed His Deity to walk among men (Phil 2:6-7), the Father remained in control. Never has the Father sheathed His power-NEVER! Paul elaborates on this in First Corinthians 15:27. "For God has put all things in subjection under His feet. But when it says, 'All things are put in subjection,' it is plain that this does not include the One who put all things in subjection under Him" (NRSV).
Correctly seen, the reign of Almighty God has been exhibited throughout history. Anywhere and everywhere there was a confrontation with opposition, the Lord overcame. Whether we are speaking of the devil and his angels, the world of Noah's day, Sodom and Gomorrah, or the Egyptian oppressors, God has ALWAYS triumphed. If God commanded a soul to be sustained, it was sustained, even if birds of the air and an impoverished widow had to do it. 450 prophets of Baal were no match for the person upon whom the favor of the Lord rested. A thousand Philistines were no match for a man endued with power from God, even though he had only a jawbone in his hand. A seasoned warrior over nine feet tall could not stand before a young lad with nothing but a sling and five smooth stones. Although a nation of unbelieving Jews sought to stifle the preaching of a former Pharisee, they were impotent to do so. THE LORD GOD OMNIPOTENT REIGNS!
For centuries a seemingly invincible foe appeared to rule the world. Kings, merchants, and traders joined with this oppressor in a unity that appeared unbreakable. But at the very moment God's purpose is served, and without delay, the wicked conglomerate will come tumbling down. THE LORD GOD OMNIPOTENT REIGNS!
Determine in your heart not to wait until the close of time to acknowledge the Omnipotence of our God! Join the heavenly multitude now in confessing "Christ is Lord to the glory of God." It will honor God and bring strength to you. If God is for you, who CAN be against you?
Throughout this series, I have labored to show nothing totally new is taught in the Revelation of Christ. The salvation of God is consistently the preeminent matter. The purpose of God is at the heart of the book. The devil is presented as our most formidable foe, and corrupt religion is declared to be his chief weapon. The saints are seen as misfits in, and opposed by, this world. Their work, life, and death are declared to be under Divine supervision. Nothing they have done for Him has been in vain, and He will avenge all who have aligned themselves against His people. The Word of God is declared to be pivotal in the affairs of the Lord. Those who have that Word and declare it are affirmed to be the premier people in this world. The closer people are to the world, whether kings or slaves, the further they are from God. The more aware personalities are of the Lord, the quicker and more insightful is their praise. Ultimately the Lord Jesus will be seen and confessed to have been Lord. Finally, the devil and all of his hosts will be seen as intruders, and will be cast into the lake of fire.
Who is the soul who is unable to see the perfect harmony of this with the rest of Scripture? Who would dare to say this message is not relevant to the saints of God, or that it does not bring comfort and solace to those who are oppressed for righteousness sake?
Let every soul take heart! Corruptions of the truth will not always exist. They are only present for a relatively brief moment to draw out from among the saints those with no appetite for the truth. False churches, reprehensible though they be, are necessary "that those who are approved may have become evident" (1 Cor 11:19, NASB).
When, therefore, grief comes upon you because of apparent corruption around you, do not weep as one who has no hope! It is not over yet. "Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning" (Psa 30:5). As you sow and water the eternal seed remember, "He that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him" (Psa 126:6).
As you embrace the message of this glorious book, take hold of this truth, and do not let it go. "For yet a little while, And He who is coming will come and will not tarry" (Heb 10:37). Until then, "with purpose of heart," cling unto the Lord (Acts 11:23). It will soon be over.