Wednesday 28th December 2022

REVELATION 19

“When justice is done, the righteous rejoice”, says Proverbs 21:15.  We see, in Rev 19, that the great multitude of believers in heaven has raised a mighty shout of joy.  God has finally judged ‘The Great Prostitute’ and has avenged the blood of his faithful servants.  Justice has been done and God’s righteousness has been revealed.  Just as Sodom fell and the smoke rose up to heaven, so the smoke goes up from Babylon to the Throne of God, to the one who demands satisfaction for all sin, rebellion, and wrongdoing.

There is no sense of shame or guilt in heaven’s response to this judgment.  The Great Multitude of the redeemed, the twenty-four elders symbolising the universal church, and the four living creatures are united in their joy and approval that justice is finally done.  God cannot overlook sins – he cannot ‘brush them under the carpet’.  He is completely pure and set apart; as a consequence, every sin, from the extermination of an entire race to the evasion of paying tax, must receive its just punishment from the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.  If we object to this, then we are really saying that Christ’s death and resurrection was all rather pointless!

So the great multitude rejoices that justice has been done, and that the ‘Prostitute’ that has terrorised God’s people for millennia has finally been removed and is not longer able to corrupt the whole earth.  But there is even more joy for what is to follow:  the removal of the Prostitute also signals the entrance of the Bride!  The final joining of Christ and his Church is immanent.  The Church has been dressed in white robes symbolising righteousness and righteous deeds.  The wedding supper of Christ is being prepared and invitations sent out.  This wedding supper will go on for all eternity!

This imagery fits the gospel age perfectly.  Jewish marriages were in three phases: Betrothal (which was a legally binding act), then a period of separation and preparation, during which the dowry was paid to the bride’s father by the groom, followed finally by the wedding feast and consummation.  In spiritual terms, Christ paid the dowry to the Father, at the cross, and the Church is now betrothed to him.  The interval of separation is now, the gospel age, when the Church is becoming perfected and enlarged, increasing in good deeds and holy character.  At the end of the age, the Bridegroom will return for his Bride and the marriage feast will begin.

From verses 11 – 21 we read of the final demise of the two beasts, the One from the Sea and the One from the Land (also known as the ‘False Prophet’), along with all their followers.  The leader of the army of heaven is none other than its greatest champion: Jesus Christ the Righteous One.  On his robe and thigh are written ‘King of Kings and Lord of Lords’ and He is also known as the Word of God.  He is all-seeing, all-knowing, and ready to judge and rule the nations ‘with an iron sceptre’.  He treads the winepress of God’s wrath too.  The sharp sword that comes out of his mouth is symbolic of the words of judgment that he will utter: “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and is angels”. 

With him are the armies of heaven, angelic forces of unimaginable power, arrayed against the beasts and their demonic hordes.  The battle of Har-Magedon, which has raged for the entire gospel age, now reaches its great and swift climax.  The antichristian governmental powers, aided by the antichristian powers of religion have launched their final all-out attack against the church, aiming to wipe it out once and for all.  But that attack, fierce as it is, is short-lived and the forces of evil are collectively routed by the Lord of Lords and his superior army. 

The beasts are captured and dealt with – being symbolically cast alive into the lake of fire, filled with burning sulphur.  In reality, this means that Christ will return to liberate his church from Satan’s persecution and deception forever.  Every satanic influence will be removed from the face of the earth as part of the Final Judgment and of the cleansing of the earth – making way for the arrival of a new heaven and a new earth.  More details of that will be found in the final section of Revelation to follow (chapters 20-22).

NEHEMIAH 9, 10 and 11

Two weeks later, the Israelites (notice that the name of the united people has now been reintroduced) met together again for a day of fasting, penitence, and confession.  Again, the reading of the Law paid a big part in it, and they did that for about three hours.  Then they spent a further three hours in confession and worship of the Lord.  What follows in chapter 9:5-37 is regarded as one of the most beautiful written prayers outside the Psalms of David.  It is both a prayer and a history lesson, as Israel reminds itself of the Lord’s greatness, his creative power, his love and compassion for them, his covenant, and his faithfulness to them.

Then the prayer moves into confession, looking back to the sinfulness and rebellion of their ancestors – totally lacking in gratitude towards their loving provider-God.  They are described as ‘stiff-necked’ – a refusal to bow or submit to the Lord – and as a consequence became a ‘pain in the neck’ to him!  Yet God showed them compassion, overlooked their complete lack of gratitude, and continued to provide for their every need.  (Any parent who has brought up teenage children will identify with the emotions in God’s heart!) 

Disobedience, however, continued and was still present in the current generation.  They recognised that they too were just as much to blame as their ancestors, and that because of their sinfulness, their prosperity was evaporating, their wealth being given to foreign kings.

As we ‘come clean’ with the Lord and confess our own sins to him – our deceits, our selfishness, our little ‘revenges’, our gossip, unkindness, and lack of mercy – we are suddenly being real with the King of Kings for the first time in ages.  And God can then do something to help us.  All the time that we blame our shortcomings on others or on circumstances beyond our control, we deny the Lord the intimacy that he requires to ‘fix’ us.  It is simply no good excusing our ungodly behaviour on our poor self-image or our insecurities or fears – before a righteous God these are invalid excuses.  As we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, to cleanse us of our sinfulness, and to heal us fully so that we are delivered from the power of that sin.  (See 1 John 1:9; James 5:16).  Once we have dealt in this way with the Lord, then we need to deal with those people who have suffered as a result of our sins, asking their forgiveness too.

Israel then moved from confession to covenant: they promised to carefully obey all God’s commands.  Especially, to keep the nation pure by avoiding inter-marriage with the surrounding nations.  And to keep the Sabbath holy.  And to cancel all debts between them every seventh year.  Giving a generous proportion of their income, first to the household of God, was essential; the Tithe represented a benchmark for normal giving and generosity was often defined as exceeding this.  The purpose of the tithes was to provide sustenance for the priests and Levites who served full-time at the House of God, having denied themselves a normal family income by their commitment to their ministry.  Likewise, today, we should remember those who rely upon our giving, and give generously so that the lives of our paid ministers are a joy not a struggle.

“We will not neglect the house of our God” (Nehemiah 10:39).  These days we are not supporting a building, but a household, the household of faith.  We support God’s household partly by material giving, but also by giving of ourselves, of our time, of our giftings and by doing good to all – especially to Christians (Galatians 6:10).

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