We could spend the rest of the morning trying to tease out the esoteric meanings of Revelation 14, comparing the symbolism of the Old Testament with that in this chapter, and feeling pretty good about ourselves because we had spent some serious time in the Word.
But I find that too many Bible “studies” are more like a convention for the makers of questions for Bible Trivia games. We pull out our own personal favorite facts, or randomly associate them with what we think they mean; we exhaust ourselves and our time with the Bible, and yet the one thing that is really necessary remains undone. What we are supposed to come to the book of Revelation to see is Jesus Christ, and then, having gazed intently at Him, to have ears to hear what He is saying to us, and then to obey Him.
So what do I hear this morning?
I hear a voice from heaven, like the voice of many waters. Imagine that you are standing near Niagara Falls (Niagara Falls?! Slowly I turned . . .) with a friend, perhaps your beloved. You’ve tried talking but have given up on the idea because the voice of the waters is so loud that you can’t even hear yourself inside your head.
Imagine as well that you have found yourself in the middle of a thunderstorm and particularly loud claps of thunder keep shooting off, shaking and rattling you and the earth.
Flying out of the terrifyingly glorious storm are immense and powerful angels, only they haven’t come to announce the birth of Christ to Mary or shepherds but to announce the judgment of God upon the earth. The angels say, in essence, “Choose this day whom you will serve. Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly. His delight is in the law of the Lord. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water.
But the ungodly will be like the chaff that the wind drives away.
Why do the nations rage and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together against the Lord and against His Christ, saying, ‘Let us break their bonds in pieces.’
He who sits in the heavens is laughing. He is speaking to them in His wrath and has set His King on His holy hill of Heaven.
Now therefore, be wise, O kings; serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry and you perish in the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little.
Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him!”
The implications of these terrible, revelatory words are summed up for us in Revelation 14:7, “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth; the sea and springs of water.”
This has been the consistent message from the revelation of the Old and New Covenants. At times, God rolls back the sky like a scroll, and we are privileged to see the invisible realities. Moses saw it onMount Sinai, and Ezekiel in his visions. David saw it in some of his Psalms, and Isaiah in his prophecies. It is all throughout the wisdom literature, and not just the Psalms. After exploring the many varieties of futility, Solomon concludes, in Ecclesiastes12:13, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.”
Job hears the same message in Job 40, from God Himself: “Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified? Have you an arm like God’s? Can you thunder with a voice like His? Then adorn yourself with majesty and splendor. And array yourself with glory and beauty.”
When Job hears these and similar words, when God reveals but a small fraction of who He is, Job is undone. “I have heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You. Therefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
Too often, we come before Almighty God, whose glory has caused men stronger and more courageous than you or me to fall like dead men and weep, as if He were like us. Too often, we see the humanity of Christ, but not the divinity; we see gentle, healing, Savior, but not the Judge of the Heavens and Earth, the one who pours out the cup of His indignation and wrath, the curse and damnation of all those who will not accept the Blood of the Lamb. We don’t want to see that those who reject God, as has been taught in both Old and New Covenant, will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb (verse 10).
We are to fear God with a reason – not just because of His judgment (which, by His grace, we may escape) but because He is fearful. If we really had a vision of the glorified Jesus Christ on His throne, we would be forever changed. We would tremble and quake and topple over on our faces like Dagon and say with Job that we are unworthy before the One who is worthy, and that we abhor ourselves, and we’d go and repent in dust and ashes.
In the Holy Scriptures, the reaction of those who have truly seen Jesus Christ is not to see Him as the cool dude with sandals and a toga or to go up and slap Him on the back and say, “Jesus, buddy, old friend – how’s it going?” The reaction to the voice of many waters and voice of thunder, to the Lamb who stands as Judge of heaven and earth is to fear Him and give Him glory. The amazing thing is that we are allowed to be so intimate and personal with this terrifying Person!
What difference would it make in our lives, however, if we saw the divine side of Jesus, the fearsome and terrible Judge who pours out His wrath on those who disobey Him? What difference would it make in the way we worship, in the sanctuary and outside? What difference would it make in how faithfully and carefully we obeyed His commandments?
St. John’s Revelation is a revelation of Jesus Christ. Let’s see Him for who He is and begin living immediately as if we truly believed in the Jesus Christ of 14.
Prayer: Glory be to You, Lord Jesus Christ, because You are worthy of all honor and glory and blessing! Blessed be You, Lord Jesus Christ, because of Your perfect faith and the gift of this faith to those who honor You with their obedience. Glory be to You for Your righteousness and holiness and justice. May the whole earth fear and love and glorify You as they should! Amen.
Point for Meditation:
- When I picture Jesus and hear Him, how do I usually picture and hear Him? Is the Jesus of my life anything like the Jesus of Revelation 14? In what ways could St. John’s revelation of Jesus Christ act as a corrective to your picture of Jesus?
- Is there one area in your life where the fearful Jesus Christ needs to make an appearance?
Resolution: I resolve to picture the Jesus Christ of Revelation 14 today. I further resolve to consider my sins, my obedience, and my worship in light of the Jesus Christ of Revelation 14.
© 2011 Fr. Charles Erlandson
144,000 painting from Wikipedia entry on 144,000
Category: Give Us This Day