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#25 The Terrible Woes Part II

September 4, 2008

Before we begin I want to tell you that there are those who believe that everything in the Book of Revelation was fulfilled at the fall of Jerusalem. They teach that everything up through the first have of chapter 20 has already taken place. We are only waiting for Jesus to return and end the world. But I really can’t see it that way. I can’t see everything in the book of Revelation being merely symbolic either. And remember that a symbol represents a reality.

 

Remember that God declared Himself to be the One Who declares the end from the beginning. He declared in unmistakable language that He who spoke this world into existence will also speak it out of existence too. No matter how mad it makes some people, even Christian people, God is going to destroy the world. He is coming to judge sin and He is going to do it in the manner that He laid out before us in the scriptures. There is no explaining away this truth!

 

Consider this: if all that is contained in the book of Revelation was fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem why did no one in the Roman legions tell of Jesus riding down from Heaven and slay the multitudes that were gathered in the valley of Megiddo specifically to fight against Him? No, there is coming an end to the world that we know and God has told the end from the beginning! He has not left us without a witness.

 

We have in the scriptures, in Ezekiel and Daniel and Matthew 25, in second Thessalonians, the writings of Peter, John and Jude and other places, a written record of the plan of God to destroy the world of sinners, to gather all of mankind before Him for the purpose of judgment on sin and the bestowal of mercies on His children! What we have here is not merely a fig Newton of our imaginations; we are not following cleverly devised tales but we are hearing the voice of God and the voices of His eyewitnesses whom He has given to teach, rebuke, correct and train us in righteousness so that we will be mature men and women of God, lacking nothing.

 

He has not left us in the dark but has had mercy on us and has told us beforehand what is coming so that we will be ready. He has warned us like the ancient watchmen on the wall. He has pointed out the danger that is moving our way. What wonderful mercy, what a demonstration of love this is!

Consider yourselves to be blessed for that is exactly what you are. We are the recipients of grace. No condemnation awaits us. Indeed, we are awaiting the arrival of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ who will return on the Father’s appointed day to take us home.

 

For unbelievers this is not the case. Terror is coming and on a scale never before seen. I don’t care how graphic Hollywood can get; I don’t care who does the special effects, nothing in this world can prepare you for what is on he horizon. Steven King in his wildest nightmares couldn’t conceive of the horrific devastation that God will wreak upon this fallen, sinful world. This is God in action and no one can duplicate the power of God. How awesome is it? Just ask the Egyptians, the people of the Antediluvian world. Ask Noah what he saw and heard. Ask Moses about the night of judgment on Egypt’s firstborn.

They would tell you that the memory of the power of the presence of God is overwhelming. They would tell you how helpless they felt before His Awesome Majesty! That experience is burned into their memories forever. Some preachers would say that we are ripe for judgment. Sinful mankind has risen up today to a level of animosity toward the things of God that is at least on par with the dark ages, or the godless days of the 1700’s and the 1800’s. Some would even argue that we have descended to the depths of sin equal to Sodom and Gomorrah, or the pre-flood world of Noah. And God visited each of these generations in a demonstration of His mercy and judgment.

 

I wasn’t there and I can’t pretend to understand the terror that these people experienced. The only point of reference that I have is the period of conviction that God put me under when He was drawing me to Himself in salvation. I remember that death felt very near and the terror and dread that possessed me was overwhelming.

 

I remember the constant thought passing through my mind was, “I have to live to get to church so that I can get saved.” This was where I was intellectually. I believed, (I knew no better) that I had to walk down that aisle and meet with the Pastor who would give me direction as to what I must do to be saved. And it wasn’t till the Father saved me that I finally got relief as He delivered me from my sins and made me a new creature in Christ Jesus my Lord. Now understand that I found relief because I called upon the Lord for salvation. I repented of my sins and trusted Christ to save my soul. The people we are dealing with today in our text are under the condemnation of the Lord in a more terrifying way than any generation has ever experienced. He is pouring out His wrath upon the ungodly for all their ungodly deeds which they have done in an ungodly manner. But understand this fact. There is still time to repent. Jesus hasn’t returned yet.

 

Only after He has returned to end all things, when the kingdoms of this world have become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ, only then will it be too late to repent. And so, even as we see these horrible judgments we must understand that God is still calling men to repent. His voice is still heard as He shouts, “TURN YE, TURN YE FOR WHY WILL YOU DIE!” This is a graphic picture of the goodness and severity of God toward sinners. Here we see how much He hates sin and how angry He is with the sinner.

 

This leads to another point. How many times have you heard people say, “God hates sin but loves the sinner?” Is this a true statement? Does God separate the sinner from His sin? I understand the scriptures to say that “God judges the righteous, and God is angry with the wicked every day!” (Ps 7:11)

 

I see from the scriptures that unrepentant sinners are considered to be enemies of God! Paul said, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Ro 5:10) We who are Christians are now friends of God but once we were bitter enemies who hated anything that had to do with holiness and righteousness. God was anathema to us! Any mention of His name brought at the very least, rolling eyes and groans of disgust. In short we hated Him. We were by nature children of wrath, lovers of sin; haters of God, followers of the devil and therefore enemies of God! And He was angry with us!

R.C. Sproul summed up the theme of the sermon “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” when he said, ‘The world says, I’m ok, your ok. But in his sermon Edwards was telling us the truth that, ‘you’re not ok and God is mad!’ And here we see the mercy of God. lnstead of squashing us He demonstrated mercy. We read in (Mt 5:44-45) the words of Jesus Christ. “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45  so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.

 

Now what did Jesus do but exactly this! He practiced what He preached! Here is no “Do as I say and not as I do” but here are words with action! God proved His love for us by His deeds. Paul tells us in (Ro 5:8) “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, that is, while we were still enemies, while we still hated God and everything holy, Christ died for us… and John says, “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1Jo 4:10) 

 

Remember then that it is only because God had mercy on us that we have any hope at all. But for His grace we too would be the recipients of this horrifying judgment and the eternal torment that will follow. We too would be like Sodom, we too would resemble Gomorrah! Remember this as we continue to walk through the judgments on sinful man portrayed in the book of Revelation.

 

We come now to our text for this morning found in Revelation chapter 9 picking up where we left off last week with verse 12 which states “The first woe is past; what woe is this? It is the demonic locusts which had been released by the decree of God. He has given the devil the keys of the bottomless pit and the devil has released these horrors upon the earth to judge sinful men for their wickedness. We are told that the sound of their approach is deafening, like the sound of chariots of many horses running to battle.

 

Remember too that these locusts have stings in their tails and they were directed specifically to hurt men. The decree of God stands, “Thus far shall you go and no further.” Now the Greek word for hurt is Basanidzo which speaks of torture, the infliction of grievous pain. The depth of this pain is seen in the fact that men will seek death. They will want to die. They will try to die. They will look for ways to die and attempt to kill themselves. But the scriptures tell us that death will flee from them. Their lot is to be tormented for five months in this excruciating fashion.

 

This is the first woe and behold, two woes are still coming after these things. And we must read between the lines and hear the voice of God saying, Repent; turn from your wicked ways and live! Now is the time, today is the day of salvation. Repent before its too late! 13Then the sixth angel sounded, and I heard a voice from the four horns of the golden altar which is before God, 14one saying to the sixth angel who had the trumpet, “Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates.” Now this is an interesting passage again as we are seeing the things that are unfolding in the news today. There are it seems, theories as to who these angels are. Are they literal angels? Some people would say yes. MacArthur believes that these are the angels from Genesis 6. He believes that when it says that they kept not their first estate it means they came down to earth and had sexual relations with women and that is why it says there were giants in the earth.

He believes that their sin was so monstrous, so evil that God chained them in the Euphrates River until the time of the end when they would be loosed to destroy again.Others say, “no they are not literal angels but that they are men from the region around the Euphrates River. Who could this be but the Muslim nations?” Now I’m not trying to name the day or the hour, or the people involved. I’m seeing things and speculating that, perhaps these could be the people that God will use.

 

But I also see the possibility that it could be both men and angels. Remember again what Paul said in (Eph 6:12) “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

 

So while there are literal men here in the army that numbers 200 million, what is behind them, what is driving them on to perform their horrendous deeds of destruction? Is it not the spiritual forces of wickedness; under the direction of God Who is the first cause of all things, who are carrying out His command to destroy the wicked!

 

These angels, whoever they are, are tools of judgment in God’s hands and so too are the multitudes involved in this enormous army. All things whatsoever they may be are merely tools in God’s hands to accomplish His will! He is in control. He is on His Throne direction all of His creation according to His good pleasure. There is nothing outside of His control but He upholds all things by the word of His power and causes all things to bring glory and honor to His Holy Name!

 

I guess this is the whole reason why Jesus was telling His disciples not to be afraid. He had laid out the whole scenario of His impending death by crucifixion and the trouble that lay in store for them on account of His Names sake. But He had also told them that this was according to the Father’s will. God was working out His plan that He had laid out before the foundation of the world. He was in control.

 

Jesus comforted His disciples telling them that though things looked dark for the moment, the need not worry. It was He who was directing these events, Who had decreed these events from eternity past and that all things were going exactly as the Father had planned. Jesus was leaving this world to go to the Father but He was also preparing a home for them and would, on the appointed day, take them to be with Him in that glorious place of rest. And after laying out this whole picture He said, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world,” (John 16:33) I guess this is also the reason He said that when we see these things taking place look up for our redemption draweth nigh, that He is near, at the door.

 

So again, though we see world fret and scream in terror, though men’s hearts fail for fear, we who love Jesus are to be looking up in hope, knowing that He is coming to receive us unto Himself that where He is we will be also. The world has good reason to fear. As long as they remain outside God’s ark of safety they are in grave danger. Their sins, heavy as they are now, will sink them lower than the grave to a place of hideous, indescribable torment that will never end.

These temporal judgments are not worthy to be compared to the horrors that await Gods enemies! But they are horrific none the less. We read in verse 15And the four angels, who had been prepared for the hour and day and month and year, were released, so that they would kill a third of mankind. If we go by today’s world population which is around 7 billion, we are looking at the deaths of 2 billion, three hundred and thirty million people. This is inconceivable!

 

We read in verse 16The number of the armies of the horsemen was two hundred million; I heard the number of them. It is interesting that in 1968, China announced that they could now field an army of 200 million men. It is interesting that they chose that specific number which coincides exactly with what we are reading here today. It could mean that this is China. They are a godless, atheistic nation which has banned God from the public arena.

 

In chapter 16 John speaks of the Euphrates River being dried up to make way for the kings of the east which could be a coalition of Oriental nations like China, Korea, and India. Again I am merely speculating. But I do remember another news article written when I was a teenager that one of the Middle Eastern Nations had built a dam that could dry up this very river. Also China had been building a massive road that would make it easy for their armies to travel to the Middle East. And so it is possible that a coalition made up of the oriental nations is meant here. And all these things I have mentioned have been decreed by God. The roads, the dams, the rise of nations, everything is going according to the Divine plan! He speaks in Ezekiel of putting hooks into the jaws of the nation of Gog (which it seems everyone agrees is Russia) to drag them to their doom. This is Gods show so to speak. He is going to judge all the godless nations, all the unrepentant sinners for their evil deeds. 

 

As we come to verse 17 John describes the monstrous army, saying, “And this is how I saw in the vision the horses and those who sat on them: the riders had breastplates the color of fire and of hyacinth and of brimstone; and the heads of the horses are like the heads of lions; and out of their mouths proceed fire and smoke and brimstone. Most people agree that this is a description of modern weapons of war modern warfare; that John was given permission to see these things and he described them in a manner that he could relate to.

 

And we read in verse 18A third of mankind was killed by these three plagues, by the fire and the smoke and the brimstone which proceeded out of their mouths. 19For the power of the horses is in their mouths and in their tails; for their tails are like serpents and have heads, and with them they do harm. If these aren’t modern weapons of war then like the locusts of the bottomless pit they too are demonic entities that have been loosed upon mankind but either way the destruction they wreak is unparalleled. But see the heart of the sinner. He experiences all this horror and still wants nothing to do with the remedy. 20And the rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands, so as not to worship demons, and the idols of gold and of silver and of brass and of stone and of wood, which can neither see nor hear nor walk; 21and they did not repent of their murders nor of their sorceries nor of their immorality nor of their thefts.

 

Cast your minds back to the day of fiery serpents and the bronze serpent on the pole. All they needed to do to be healed of the poisonous bite was look. The command was ‘Look and live!” And yet how many people died because they would not look!

We are not told but, and I am speculating here, I am sure there were those who refused, who would not obey, who hardened their hearts, who stiffened their necks and scoffed at the command. “How can just looking at a bronze serpent help me” they say.

 

But what’s different about the attitude of any sinner in any circumstance? We tell them, “Look to Jesus and live” and they scoff. “What can Jesus possibly do for me that I can’t do for myself? I don’t need anyone raining on my parade! I will not look to Jesus. I want to have my fun and maybe when I’m on my deathbed I might think about it.” And I say, “Who says you are going to have the luxury of a death bed?” Just as the writer of the book of Hebrews said, “Behold now is the time, today is the day of salvation.” You don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring. You don’t have control over the circumstances that will arise any given moment.

 

But we know Someone who does. There is Someone who knows what the future holds because He has ordained everything that will ever happen. And from the Holy Scriptures He has called us to Himself saying, “Come to Me all who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” In Him we have found a resting place from the turmoil around us.

 

And though this world is destined for destruction in Jesus we have a sure hope for a glorious future. In Jesus we have put our trust and the scriptures tell us that we will never be put to shame. There is no condemnation awaiting us and though men kill our bodies they can’t touch our souls. We belong to Christ and no one can snatch us from His omnipotent hand. In this world of sin we will have tribulation, but Jesus said, “Be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world.”

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