The Victory of the Everlasting Gospel
evelation 14:1-15:4 (focal 14:1)
In the unfolding sequence of visions that John sees, a message of hope is building up. In the first few chapters, John has been shown the condition of the churches in Asia Minor at the close of the first century. Then, in a series of ‘wonderful’ pictures, the triumph of Jesus Christ is revealed to him in a most remarkable way. Then comes another picture: a scroll with seven seals, taken out of the hand of God. The only One! who can open these seals is Jesus Christ. As they are opened, seven trumpeters come on to the stage blowing their trumpets of warning, thus moving the reader into the second half of the book and prompting us to penetrate more deeply into the mysteries that are being revealed.
Behind what John has so far seen and heard are even bigger realities!
In a series of seven signs, John takes us behind the space-time world with which we are familiar, to catch a glimpse of another reality, one in which a war is taking place between God and the powers of darkness. Jesus is building his church within sight of the gates of hell (Matt. 16:18). Beasts arise out of the earth and sea. Powers – unequal to God, yet opposing – are at work, seeking to destroy everything that Christ is endeavoring to build.
Abraham Kuyper (who was once Prime Minister of the Netherlands, editor of two different newspapers, founder of a University, author of countless books, and one of the greatest theologians since the time of the Reformation), wrote concerning this battle:
‘If once the curtain were pulled back and the spiritual world behind it came into view it would expose to our spiritual vision a struggle so intense, so convulsive, sweeping everything within its range, that the fiercest battle ever fought on earth would seem by comparison a mere game. Not here, but up there. That is where the real conflict is waged. Our earthly struggle drones in its backlash.’
Yes, this struggle on earth for us is real. The beasts represent the instruments that Satan (the ‘great red dragon’) uses in to impede the progress and ultimate triumph of the Kingdom of God. But the victory of God’s Kingdom is never in doubt. The decisive battle has already been won at Calvary, a victory signaled by Christ’s resurrection and ascension. It is because of that certainty that Satan’s rage is so fierce. Like a cornered animal, he bares his teeth and growls.
When chapter 13 ends, however, it appears that the Kingdom of Christ is a lost cause. When you read about the kingdom of antichrist, the strategy of the dragon and his accomplices, the two beasts, and how Satan holds sway over the whole earth, the future seems grim for the people of God in this world. But then John looks again, and what he sees astonishes him. He says, ‘I looked again, and this time I saw things from a different vantage point. I saw things from the perspective of heaven. I saw things spiritually. I saw the Lamb standing in majesty on Mount Zion with all his people, safe under his protection.’ What a comfort this vision must have been for the people of John’s time!
We, too, need this comfort. We can face trials, temptations, tests, and trouble only by opening our eyes, trusting Christ, and believing what 1 John 4:4 says: ‘Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world’.
This Lord’s Day we will look at Revelation 14:1-15:4 and in this passage the Lord assures his people of their ultimate safety. As a result of this assurance he calls for us to endure. In the meantime, he gives messages of warning and calls to repentance before the harvesting of the grapes of wrath. For in the end, there is a separation between those who follow Christ and those who follow the harlot Babylon.
Whom do you follow? I urge you to pray for our services this Sunday and then invite someone to come along with you as the Word of the Lord is proclaimed.
Grace upon Grace,