December 29, 2020

The Preaching of the Gospel to all the World is the Last Sign

"There must be religion. When that ligament is torn, society is disjointed and its members perish... [T]he most important of all lessons is the denunciation of ruin to every state that rejects the precepts of religion. Your good morals in the army give me sincere pleasure as it hath long been my fixed opinion that virtue and religion are the great sources of human happiness. More especially is it necessary in your profession firmly to rely upon the God of Battles for His guardianship and protection in the dreadful hour of trial. But of all these things you will and I hope in the merciful LORD."[1]
DAILY READING : REVELATION 13 - 16, 17 - 19, 20 - 22
TEXT : Revelation  14:6 And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting Gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people,  14:7 Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.  14:13 And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the LORD from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.  14:14 And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud one sat like unto the Son of man, having on his head a golden crown, and in his hand a sharp sickle.  14:15 And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe.  14:16 And he that sat on the cloud thrust in his sickle on the earth; and the earth was reaped.
Revelation 14:1-20
In Chapter 14 we have the dealings of God with the evil, only first owning and setting apart the remnant. The remnant belongs entirely to the renewed earth: they are seen on that which is the centre of dominion and glory in it — Mount Zion where the Lamb shall reign. They had His and His Father's name on their foreheads; that is, by their open confession of God and the Lamb they had been witnesses of it, and suffered as Christ had suffered in His life in owning God His Father: only they had not suffered death. It was a new beginning, not the assembly, not heavenly, but the blessing of a delivered earth in its firstfruits in those who had suffered for the testimony to it. Heaven celebrates it with a voice of many waters, and as of thunder, but with joy. This voice was the voice of harps. A new song is sung before the throne and beasts and elders. Here the fact is the important thing. There had been a song in and of heaven, in Chapter 5 in connection with redemption; but those who were redeemed there were made kings and priests. Here it was redemption in connection with earthly blessings, not with the kingdom and priesthood on high; and it is sung before the heavenly company and throne. Heaven however is directly connected with the song. It was connected with triumph over the power of evil by patient endurance of suffering.
What specially characterised them was purity from the contamination that surrounded them. This passing through sorrow and overcoming connects them directly with the heavenly conquerors. It was not the new song of heavenly redemption; still it was victory when down at the gates of death, though not actually in it. It was "as it were a new song." This none could learn but those who had shared the earthly sufferings of the Lamb, and would now be His companions in His earthly royalty; they had followed Him, they would follow Him whithersoever He went. They are the firstfruits of the new scene. They had not corrupted themselves where all did. They were not of those who loved or made a lie, or gave in to it. Corruption and falsehood they had been kept free from, openly confessing the truth. They had not the heavenly place, but they are without fault, and they share the Lamb's earthly place and glory, accompanying Him whithersoever He goes, in the manifestation of that glory. All that led to these privileges had no place when once the kingdom was set up. It was then too late to shew faithfulness in this way. There is a connection with the heavenly saints which is not in Chapter 7. The white-robed multitude stood before the throne and the Lamb. They are before the throne of God, they worship in His temple, and the Lamb comforts them. Here there is special association with the Lamb on earth, in their path and in their consequent place. It is the remnant of the Psalms (especially 1 - 41). But, though on earth with the King, they are redeemed from among men before Christ comes to earth; and the song they learn to sing is sung before the elders and living creatures. They are not with them, but they sing the song sung before them; that is, the Gentile multitude are admitted to special privileges before God and the Lamb; the Jewish remnant are associated with the Lamb on earth, and, in a certain sense, with heaven.
The progress of God's ways follows — warning to the earth to leave idolatry; for the hour of God's judgment was come. The everlasting Gospel is the testimony of Christ's power, from paradise onward, as in contrast with the special announcement of the assembly, and glad tidings connected with it. Babylon is announced to be fallen; threats and warnings to any that should own the beast; but the time is now come when dying in the LORD was to cease; only their blessedness remained henceforth. Dying and tribulation were over. They are looked at as one whole body; and while any remained yet to die, they were diers in the LORD, not rested and blessed. Now their rest is come and their reward.
Christ then reaps the earth — separating, gathering, and judgment; and treads the winepress, exercise unmingled vengeance on the wicked. Hence in this last judgment it is the angel who had the power over Fire who calls for it; it was full divine judgment. This judgment was not within the limits of Babylon — was not in the sphere in which man had formed and ordered his organization in opposition to God. This closes the whole scene of that which the history had begun by the catching up of the Man-child to heaven. He has returned in vengeance. An interesting question here arises — What is the vine of the earth? It is that which is the fruit bearing organization, or what should be so (that is the idea of it), in professed connection with God, as His planting in the earth. Israel has the vine brought out of Egypt. Christ on earth was the true vine. It is not connection with Him in heaven. There we are looked at as perfect, not to bear fruit and be pruned. But analogously it went on after He had ascended on high, and professing Christians are the branches. But here it is the vine of the earth, that which has its character and growth therein, but with the pretension to take the religious place by succession on the earth. The true saints are gone on high, or are a persecuted individual remnant. I have no doubt the Jews will be the centre of that system then, but they will be mixed up with Gentiles, have turned to idolatry, and have seven spirits worse than that; and the apostate Gentiles will be fully associated with it all. (See Isaiah 34, 63, 65, 66) [John Darby][2]
In our text, we have the final signs of the end of the world.  In Matthew chapter 24, Jesus spoke of the "signs of the times," or the signs of his return.  Among the many signs listed in that 24th chapter, the preaching of the Gospel to all the world is the final sign.  Jesus said in Matthew 24:14 - "And this Gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come."Therefore, the preaching of the Gospel to the entire world is the last sign before Christ returns to judge the living and the dead.
God is just.  He will never do anything that is unrighteous or unjust.  His nature, being pure and holy, is also spotlessly just.  That means, he cannot by his nature do anything that is wrong.  For instance, when he was about to judge Sodom and Gomorrah, the patriarch Abraham was concerned about the righteous people that might be living inside Sodom or Gomorrah.  Abraham asked the LORD concerning the judgment to come.  
"And Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou also destroy the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? And the LORD said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes. And Abraham answered and said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the LORD, which am but dust and ashes: Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, If I find there forty and five, I will not destroy it. And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Peradventure there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for forty's sake. And he said unto him, Oh let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak: Peradventure there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it, if I find thirty there. And he said, Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the LORD: Peradventure there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for twenty's sake. And he said, Oh let not the LORD be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: Peradventure ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for ten's sake." (Genesis 18:23 - 32)
In this petition of Abraham's, his statement - "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" is a probing and penetrating insight into the nature of God concerning his justice.  Perhaps, a more rhetorical statement than an doubtful inquiry, Abraham pronounces the impeccable righteousness of Almighty God.  As it turned out, there were not even 10 righteous people in Sodom or Gomorrah.  Thus, God destroyed those cities and their suburbs.
There is a similar parallel between the first book of the Bible and the last, concerning the mercy and justice of God.  In short, God gives man an opportunity to turn to him and receive mercy or to stay in unrighteousness and be judged.  The choice belongs to Man.  On this point the Holy Scriptures are clear.  God is not willing that any should perish.  Rather, it is his expressed will that all should come to repentance and receive mercy and grace.  However, if Man is judged (and certainly humanity will be judged as you read in the book of the Revelation), it is the decision of men and women to turn away from God.
Notice in our text the word of the angel is an exhortation to give God and the Glory.  This is the purpose of humanity.  It is that God should be glorified in all his works.  Yet, although he is glorified in nature, the cosmos, and all other aspects of his creation, men and women are the only ones who do not properly reflect the Glory of God.  This is because of sin.  Sin is the breaking of God's laws.  When this is done, men and women - that is, humanity cannot reflect the true beauty of God's holiness or behave according to God's original design. 
God's initial intention was for humanity - his highest creation made in his own image, to have relationship with him.  Yet, sin has separated humanity from God.  Therefore, men and women throughout history, as well as those living today and those yet to be born do not know God.  Jesus spoke of this in his ministry, and stated that he came to restore the relationship between God and people.  Still, this can only be accomplished by faith.  That is, by placing faith in Jesus Christ and keeping his commandments (obedience).
Therefore, in our text of Revelation chapter 14, we see the final sign (the Gospel being preached to everyone in the world) as well as the stated purpose and designed of humanity, which is to glorify God.  Your life is like the moon in its relationship to the sun.  Though the moon does not possess light, it does reflect the light of the sun.  Thus, there is a light in the dark night.  Christians are like the moon.  They reflect the light of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The light is God's.  Yet, you shine because of the goodness, kindness, mercy, grace, and power of God.
However, the sad truth revealed in the book of the Revelation is that right to the end, as it was in the beginning of human history, men and women refuse to turn to God for their own good.  When you think on the truths revealed in the Bible, namely, that God is not willing that any should perish and he is long suffering with those who have refused him, it is somewhat melancholy.  Nevertheless, to some degree it does mitigate the horror of the Lake of Fire.  Remember, the Lake of Fire is eternal and those found in it will live forever in its tormenting flames.  For this reason, the preaching of the Gospel is essential.  God wants men and women to be "saved," from the wrath to come, which you read in the book of Revelation.  Once again, if a person goes to "hell," it is not the fault of God.
As noted, the book of the Revelation is an encouragement to the believer in Jesus Christ.  It ends in eternal Glory for those trusting in Christ.  However, it ends in a tragic conflagration of unspeakable and unthinkable pain for the rebel.  Further, it is all a matter of choice.  That is, the individual's choice.  Clearly, God did not create the Lake of Fire for human beings.  It was created for the Devil and his angels according to our LORD Jesus Christ.  Nevertheless, scores of men and women will find themselves in this horrific place because they refused God's offer of mercy and grace.
In the end, God will do right even as Abraham stated.  God cannot do otherwise.  He is holy and true.  He is merciful and benevolent.  Still, when his laws are broken there are penalties to pay.  The beauty of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that he paid that penalty for all the broken laws (sin) and died in Man's place.  Yet, many refuse this call for love mercy and for that - God will never be blamed.  Certainly, as you read in the book of Revelation, men and women will curse God.  However, this will only be proof of the unrighteousness of men and women put against the love and righteousness of God Almighty.
Thus, the preaching of the Gospel to all the world is the last sign before Christ comes to set up his kingdom.  It is also God's final offer of mercy.  The choice belongs to man.  Yet, God who gives mercy upon mercy tells all humanity - "choose life and live."[3] Surely, Christ is at the door.  Even so, come LORD Jesus.

  • [1] Collections of the New York Historical Society for the Year 1821 (New York: E. Bliss and E. White, 1821), pp. 32, 34, from "An Inaugural Discourse Delivered Before the New York Historical Society by the Honorable Gouverneur Morris, (President,) 4th September, 1816." ; Letters of Delegates to Congress: February 1, 1778-May 31, 1778, Paul H. Smith, editor (Washington DC: Library of Congress, 1982), Vol. 9, pp. 729-730, Gouverneur Morris to General Anthony Wayne on May 21, 1778.
  • [2] Darby, John. Synopsis of the Old and New Testaments. Public Domain, [1800 - 1882].
  • [3] Deu_30:19  I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:
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