Revelation 047 – Can God Be Trusted?

Revelation 047 – Can God Be Trusted?
Revelation 15:1-4 • Dr. Andy Woods • August 4, 2019 • Revelation


Andy Woods

Can God be Trusted?      8-4-19

Revelation 14:14-20    Lesson 47

Let’s take our Bibles and open them to the Book of Revelation, chapter 15 and the title of our message this morning is Can God be Trusted..  And as you’re turning there this morning I want to thank Gabe for filling in for me last Sunday while I was in Australia; it’s my understanding Gabe finished up his study on the Book of Jude so he took about 20 weeks to go through one chapter because there’s only one chapter in Jude.  Right!  So he’s been trained correctly… Amen!

The Book of Revelation, chapter 15.  I always like to start by kind of reminding you of where we are in the book.  By the time  you get to chapter 11 the trumpet judgments have been sounded bringing various judgments to the earth.  [Revelation 11:15, “Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying,  [16] And the twenty-four elders, who sit on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, [17]  saying, “We give You thanks, O Lord God, the Almighty, who are and who were, because You have taken Your great power and have begun to reign.”]

And a legal transfer has been announced; the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ.   Ownership over the planet is finally moving back into its rightful hand, the hand of God.  The problem is the adverse  possessor, Satan, doesn’t like that.   So what you have is sort of an interruption in the chronology explaining Satan’s last stand.  And that’s what chapters 12-14 are all about, that we have completed.  Chapter 12 is Satan’s attack against God’s instrument in those last days, Israel.  Chapter 13 is about the two people he will use, Satan will use, called the two beasts.  And chapter 14 is about six themes of hope and that’s where we left off las time.

And now what happens, after you have these sort of insertions into the chronology, the pattern gets picked up right where God left off, where we now move into the third and final series of judgments, the bowl judgments.  And that’s really what chapter 15 and 16 are about in the Book of Revelation.  Chapter 15 is heavenly preparation for the bowl judgments.  Chapter 16 is the bowl judgments themselves.

Now most readers of the Book of Revelation are so eager to study the bowl judgments people just skip right over chapter 15 of the Book of Revelation and pay it very little attention. I myself have been guilty of that and I was sort of shocked at some of the things I was learning in chapter 15.  So we’re not going to be skipping over chapter 15, we’re going to be looking at it very carefully.  But the thing to keep in mind is this is heavenly preparation for these coming bowl judgments.   And you know, there’s a lot of people out there in the Christian world that for whatever reason they don’t like music and they don’t like singing.  And I think heaven is going to be sort of a miserable place for them  because as we’re going to see here heaven is filled with worship and praise and singing.

So here’s sort of our outline of chapter 15.  We have the manifestation of the seven plagues, verse 1.  Then we get a description of some martyrs, verses 2-4, and that’s probably as far as we’ll get today, just those four verses.  And then next week we’ll be looking at the opening of the heavenly tabernacle.  So notice, if you will, Revelation 15, and notice, if you will, verse 1.   What heaven is being prepared for the final seven judgments.  Notice what it says: John writes, “Then I saw another angel in heaven, great and marvelous, seven angels who had seven plagues, which are the last because in them the wrath of God is completed.”

Now John sees in this vision another sign.  It’s interesting, he calls this sign or this part of the vision “great and marvelous” because it’s the summation of God’s judgments to the earth.  And he also sees in this vision in heaven “seven angels” holding these “seven plagues.”  As we’re going to see each angel is holding a bowl.  And as each angel is told to dump out the contents of their bowl upon the earth another judgment comes to the earth., just like with the sounding of a trumpet, each angel sounded a trumpet and another judgment came to the earth.  And just like Jesus, towards the beginning of the sequence back in chapter 6 opened a seven sealed scroll and every time he broke a seal another judgment came to the earth.  And so we’re going to see that same pattern, it’s just this time here it’s seven angels holding seven bowls.

And it’s interesting that it says once these angels pour out their bowls the wrath of God is finished.  Now if you’re a careful listener of what we’ve been saying  you might recall back in Revelation, verse 7, we were in chapter 10 five years ago or something… [laughter]   And what does it say there in Revelation 10:7.  It says, “but in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he is about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished,”  you say well hold the phone, I thought back in chapter 10 we were told that the final trumpet judgment would complete every­thing and now  you’re telling us that everything is not complete because the bowls haven’t been poured out.

Well, this is where it becomes very helpful to understand the sequence and pattern of these judgments.  I call it telescoping because the judgments sort of pull out like a telescope in this sense—seal seven will release the trumpets.  We’ve seen that.  Seal seven is their silence in heaven for half an hour and then the trumpets are introduced.  So seal seven unleashes the trumpets and we have the exact same pattern here, the seventh trumpet unleashes the bowl judgments.  That’s why Revelation 10:7 could say this is the last because Revelation 10:7 is assuming that the last trumpet is about to be sounded and once that is sounded automatically it includes the bowl judgments, which occur right after that.

There are, I would think, according to my old math, seven times three is what?  Twenty-one.  Twenty-one judgments here, seven seals, seven trumpets, seven golden bowls of wrath.  But wait a minute, two of these judgments involve silence because seal seven unleashes the trumpet and trumpet seven unleashes the bowls so twenty-one minus two is nineteen.  There’s actually nineteen judgments here because of this telescoping phenomenon.   So I just kind of wanted to bring that to your attention in case you’re a chronologist and you’re still bothered by Revelation 10:7 and why it says this is the last when it surely doesn’t read like the last.  I know you guys have been worrying about that all week so I wanted to assuage your nerves on that.

But it’s interesting that we move away from the manifestation of these seven plagues in heaven to verses 2-4 where we’re going to spend our time this morning on the martyrs.  We have with these heavenly martyrs now in heaven their identity, verse 2, and their praise to God, verses 3-4 and this is where music comes in.  We start to get the mind of God here on worship and music.

But notice first of all the identity of these figures.  We’re going to call them martyrs, but notice Revelation 15 and notice if you will verse 2.  John continues, and he says: “And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding” what? “harps of God.”   Don’t you play music with a harp?

You’ll notice he says, John says “I saw something like a sea of glass,” now we’ve seen that “sea of glass” before as the heavenly scene is described.  John uses the word “like,” a simile, the comparison of two things with the word like or as because he’s doing his best to follow the instructions to record what he has seen in this vision.  And he’s revealed to us heavenly scenes before and he say when I got into heaven I saw something like a sea of glass.  So that’s not brand new news; what is interesting though is this time when John describes the sea of glass he says it was “mixed with fire.”  We haven’t had that description yet.

Why does he say “mixed with fire.”  Well, I don’t know exactly but I can hazard a guess; my basic guess would be these are the martyrs that have come out of the fire of the tribulation period.  These are people that have been obedient unto Christ to the point of death.  Aren’t our trials as Christians analogized to a refiner’s fire?  1 Peter 1:6-7.  [1 Peter 1:6-7, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, [7] so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

What can a refiner’s fire do?  It cannot destroy, the only thing it can do is purify.  And that’s a proper way of looking at adversity that comes into our lives.  God is using that adversity not to make us bitter but to make us better.  And if you’re not a Christian and  you don’t have that frame of reference then you have not proper vantage point for understanding suffering that we go through.  You’re just sort of left to your own devices.  But the Christian life is so much different because you understand that this suffering would not have occurred had it not passed through the permissive will of God and God is using it as a refiner’s fire.  And these are people that have gone through the ultimate fire in the tribulation period, martyrdom itself and they appear in heaven.

And  you’ll notice there in verse 2, as they’re standing on this “sea of glass mixed with fire” it talks about them being victorious.  They’ve been victorious over a number of things.  Number one, they’ve been victorious over the beast, the antichrist that’s been described in Revelation 13:1-10.  Number 2, they’ve been victorious over his image that we studied in Revelation 13:15.  Remember anyone who did not bow down and worship this image was killed.  And they’ve been victorious over his number or his numbering system.  Recall that those who do not take the mark of the beast are sort of shut out of economic life during this terrible time period.

And now the martyrs have paid this ultimate price of debt and consequently they’re away from the beast, they’re away from his image, they’re away from a numbering system and so their status here is that of a victor.  And that’s how to look at death; death for the Christian is not the end but it’s just the beginning.  It’s a victory because it frees you from all of these terrible things in the world that we’re reading about.

You might recall Revelation 14:13, which says, “Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!’”  Revelation 20:4 talks about the dead participating in what’s called the first resurrection which is a blessing.  [Revelation 20:4, “Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.”]

And one of the points we’ve tried to make as we’ve gone through this study is I think we’re looking at death completely wrong as Christians.  We look at it as something to fear many times, something to be avoided, like  the plague, but the more I study the Bible the more I see the opposite perspective.  What does Paul say?  “To be absent from the body is to be” what? “present with the Lord.” Death is a victory.  Paul, in Philippians 1:21-23 says, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. [22] But if I am to live on in the flesh,” in other words if God keeps me alive, “this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.”  In other words, if I continue to live God can continue to use me to be a blessing to you but if I die I’m at a better place.  So Paul says in Philippians 1:23, “But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better.”

Beloved, if you are living today fearful of death I would just say this—you’re living beneath your privileges!  You’re living beneath the promises that God has given you, because the Book of Hebrews, chapter 2 and verse 15 describes one of the great purposes for which Christ came into the world.  It says, “and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.”  That’s what the fear of death is, it’s slavery, it’s bondage.  It’s fear because you have no real insight without God what happens after the grave.  But isn’t it interesting to get the perspective and the vantage point of the Bible and be liberated from that fear, and to not fear death, to see death as more of a home going, or of a promotion as a person finds themselves in Christ.  And that’s sort of the status of these martyrs.  That’s why they’re called victorious.  It doesn’t call them defeated here; it calls them victorious.  Where did these martyrs come from anyway?  Well, they are the product or the fruit, as we have studied, Revelation 7, of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists that will blanket the world with the gospel during this time period.

In fact, the evangelistic effort of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists are so effective that there’s a crowd described at the end of Revelation 7  that’s innumerable, coming from all people and all nations and all tongues.  Revelation 7:13 says this: “Then one of the elders answered me, saying to me, ‘These who are clothed in white  robes, who are they, and where did they come from?”  Verse 14, “I said to him, ‘My lord, you know.’ And he said to me, ‘These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.’”  These are the victors and that’s why these martyrs are portrayed as doing what?  Verse 2, they’re in a standing position, they’re victorious.  [Verse 2, “And I saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and the number of his name, standing on the sea of glass, holding harps of God.”]

And what else do these martyrs start to do?  Well, if we keep reading verse 2 it says, they’re “holding harps.”  I mean, isn’t a harp (the last time I checked) a musical instrument.  What would they be doing with harps?  Well, they would be singing praises unto God.  Why are they singing praises unto God?  Because they are victors.  And that sort of gets to the root of what Christian music and worship is all about. Why do we worship?  Why do we just go through that section of singing in our service this morning?  Why do we do that?  Is it just ritual?  Is it just to fill up an item in the bulletin?  NO, we should sing unto the Lord because we also “in Christ” are victorious.  The victory has already been announced, the victory is yours as you find yourself in Christ.  Christ has conquered the grave and so therefore “to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord.”  I don’t have to fear death, I’m on the winning side of history.

Well, if all of that is true how could I not want to sing to the Lord?  How could I not want to honor the Lord?  How could I not want to praise the Lord?  The music is not so much about a liver quiver or a psychological state, it’s simply a mechanism or medium by which the redeemed child of God opens  up and praises the Lord for the victory that He has gained for them.  And that’s exactly what these martyrs are doing in heaven as they’re standing on this glassy sea mixed with fire.  And it’s really what our purpose should be as a Christian community in terms of worship as well.  And you say well what exactly are they singing?  And I’m glad you asked because verses 3 and 4 are in depth concerning what worship is and what it’s supposed to be about.  We’ve got three things going on here; they’re singing the song of Moses, verse 3.  Number two, they’re singing the song of the Lamb, the second part of verse 3.  And then finally you get to the end of verse 3 and you complete verse 4 and they explode into a doxology.

You say well what is a doxology?  The word “doxology” comes from the Greek word δόξα, which means glory.  Doxology is a praise and glory to God.  And we think well how should we sing and what should we sing and why should we sing?  And the reason we asks those kinds of questions is we haven’t really studied these sections of the Bible which reveal hymnology, worship, Christian music, solely to the glory of God.  That’s what these martyrs are doing.

So let’s look at this point by point.  The first thing they’re seeing there, these martyrs, is the Song of Moses.  And notice, if you will, verse 3, “They sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God,” and then it says, “and the song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!”  You’ll notice that they’re singing “the song of Moses” and as this is described it’s revealed here that Moses was the servant of God.  In fact, the Greek word for servant is δοῦλος (doulos) meaning a slave.

You might recall all the way back in the very first verse of Revelation chapter 1 (that might have been twenty years ago we looked at that) John describes himself with that same Greek word, doulos servant.  It’s interesting to me that the most choice servants of God that we read about in the Bible, they don’t count their credentials or their intelligence, or their gifting, they just call themselves servants of God,  I’m a servant.  In fact, the word “servant” doesn’t even capture the word doulos, it’s a slave, enslavement, someone who exists to do the will of his master.  That’s what the Christian walk of discipleship is about. Yes, we’re saved by grace alone through faith along, all that is true.  But God has something more for us; He wants us to grow in the walk of servanthood, doulos and that’s what Moses was.  Moses put up with a lot, didn’t he?  How would you like to be out there in the wilderness with all those complaining kids for forty years who keep saying on vacation, “are we there yet?”  I mean, forty years of that, can you imagine that?

And yet Moses was a servant of God, he endured that and so he’s called here a doulos and notice also that he has a song.  It’s called the Song of Moses.  Now here’s where it gets just a little bit tricky.  In the Old Testament we have two songs of Moses.  The first one was sung when the nation of Israel left Egypt, there in the left hand column, the top circle, and they had been there for four hundred  years and they were let loose from that bondage in the events of the Exodus and they passed through the Red Sea.  and you know the story, how God closed the waters on the pursuing Egyptians and there the Israelites got to the opposite side after the Egyptians had been drowned.

And what could they do other than to praise God for their deliverance?   Exodus 15:1 says, “Then Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the Lord, and said, I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted; The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea.”  That’s song of Moses number one and I think Moses was about 80 years of age when he sang that song, the whole thing is, it’s beautiful, in Exodus chapter 15.

[Exodus 15:2, The Lord is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation; This is my God, and I will praise Him; My father’s God, and I will extol Him.  [3] The Lord is a warrior; The Lord is His name.  [4] Pharaoh’s chariots and his army He has cast into the sea; And the choicest of his officers are drowned in the Red Sea.  [5] “The deeps cover them; they went down into the depths like a stone. [6] Your right hand, O Lord, is majestic in power, Your right hand, O Lord, shatters the enemy.  [7] And in the greatness of Your excellence You overthrow those who rise up against You; You send forth Your burning anger, and it consumes them as chaff.  [8] Then Moses and the sons of Israel sang this song to the Lord,]and said, “At the blast of Your nostrils the waters were piled up, the flowing waters stood up like a heap; the deeps were congealed in the heart of the sea.  [9] The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide the spoil; My]desire shall be gratified against them; I will draw out my sword, my hand will destroy them.’  [10] You blew with Your wind, the sea covered them; They sank like lead in the]mighty waters. [11 “Who is like You among the gods, O Lord? Who is like You, majestic in holiness, awesome in praises, working wonders?  [12] You stretched out Your right hand, the earth swallowed them.  [13] In Your lovingkindness You have led the people whom You have redeemed; n Your strength You have guided them to Your holy habitation. [14] The peoples have heard, they tremble; anguish has gripped the inhabitants of Philistia.  [15] Then the chiefs of Edom were dismayed; the leaders of Moab, trembling grips them; all the inhabitants of Canaan have melted away.  [16] Terror and dread fall upon them; by the greatness of Your arm they are motionless as stone; until Your people pass over, O Lord, until the people pass over whom You have purchased.  [17] You will bring them and plant them in the mountain of Your inheritance, the place, O Lord, which You have made for Your dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established.  [18] The Lord shall reign forever and ever.”]

And then, as  you know the story, the Jews failed in terms of their faith, in terms of entering Canaan, and Moses, you remember, struck the rock twice, he wasn’t supposed to do that, and so that whole group is wandering around there for forty years.  And now Moses, at the age of 120, forty years later, in Deuteronomy 32 breaks out into a second song.  That’s song of Moses number 2.  This is the song he sang, you recall, he was never allowed to enter Canaan, he sang it there in the area called the Transjordan, on a mountain, called Mount Nebo, and he was looking back over his life over the faithfulness of God to him over his whole life.  And what could he do other than just explode into praise unto God.

Psalm 1, age 80, look at how God delivered us from the Egyptians. Psalm 2, age 120, recorded in Deuteronomy 32, ready to die, looking at the faithful hand of God and the only thing he could do is praise the Lord.

So here’s the twenty dollar question: when these martyrs sing the song of Moses which song are they singing?  Are they singing song A or song B?  Or maybe the answer is both.  I have a tendency to think they’re singing song B because Deuteronomy 32:4 to me looks an awful lot like Revelation 15:3.   [Deuteronomy 32:4, “The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He.  I will sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted; The horse and its rider He has hurled into the sea.”  Revelation 15:3, “And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!”]

And beyond that, of that song, the final song of Moses’ life God said he would sing it in the latter days, Deuteronomy 31:29.  [Deuteronomy 31:29, “For I know that after my death you will act corruptly and turn from the way which I have commanded you; and evil will befall you in the latter days, for you will do that which is evil in the sight of the LORD, provoking Him to anger with the work of your hands.”]  And then God, in Deuteronomy 31:21 says that song will never be forgotten.  [Deuteronomy 31:21, “Then it shall come about, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify before them as a witness (for it shall not be forgotten from the lips of their descendants); for I know their intent which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.”]  Psalm B will never be forgotten.  And you sort of put this together and I have a tendency to think that these martyrs who have achieved this victory are exploding into praise of God, singing a song largely derived from something Moses sang at the very end of his life, age 120.

But they’re also singing something else.  Not only are they singing the song of Moses they’re singing the song of the Lamb.  Now who is the Lamb?  It’s Jesus Christ.  Do you think Jesus has a song?  I try to figure out, where did Jesus sing a song?  And the only verse I have is Matthew 26:30, which is in the Passion Week, the crucifixion and the betrayal of Christ and all of these things that we celebrated today at the Lord’s Table are imminent. And Jesus is there in the Mount of Olives with His disciples; actually they were getting ready to go to the Mount of Olives and as they were making their way to the Mount of Olives it says this, Matthew 26:30, “After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”  In other words, as all these events are going down He just gathers His little group together in intimacy and as I understand it He leads them in a song, He leads them in a hymn.   I’d like to know what are the words, what does it sound like?  None of that’s given.

But apparently these martyrs know about it because they not only sing the Song of Moses they sing the Song of the Lamb.  They’re recognizing by singing the song of the Lamb that it’s all about Jesus, isn’t it?  It’s not about them, it’s not about their preferences, it’s not about what they would like to see done.  It’s about Jesus!  And I think that becomes sort of a snare to us in the 21st century because so many people come to church looking for their own preferences to be met.  I couldn’t go to church this morning, I mean, my goodness, you guys don’t even have carpet on the floor.  And you sent out an     e-mail telling me there wasn’t going to be carpeting on the floor so how could I come to church.  Well, is church about you or is it about Jesus?  I mean, is about me and my desires or is it about Him?  And I think so many times little squabbles that Christians can get into would disappear when we keep the focus and the spotlight on the right place.  It’s all about Jesus Christ.

And so these martyrs are singing this song of the Lamb, and as you move into the end of verse 3 and the beginning of verse 4 here we get the actual details of a doxology which is a hymn from heaven glorifying God.   And it has a few parts to it.  What area they singing about?  Well here we go!  Number one, they’re singing about His works.  Look at verse 3, “Great and marvelous are Your works.”  [Revelation 15:3, “And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!”]

It’s interesting that the word “great and marvelous” were used to introduce this new vision at the beginning of chapter 15 and verse 1 and the exact same Greek words, “great and marvelous” are being used as these martyrs are describing the works of God. They’re great and they’re marvelous!   Why would you praise God because He’s almighty?  A very simple reason—God has an attribute that we don’t have, it’s called omnipotence, He’s all powerful.  I had to get to bed early last night because I was tired.  I don’t think God has that problem.  I don’t think God gets tired because He is omnipotent.  He is all powerful.  And if God is all powerful, as this song narrates, then why am I so bothered by a little problem in my life, whatever that may be?  The trial in your life, the setback in your life, the situation in your life, why does that even bother us?  Why don’t we just take that the way the Bible tells us to do it and to deposit it into the hands of an almighty God, and praise Him for His omnipotence.

And then they praise the Lord for something else; I found this very interesting.  They praise Him for His ways; not just His acts or His works, but His ways.  [Revelation 15:3] “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty.  Righteous and true are Your ways,”  how do you look at the ways of God?  Crooked?  Corrupt?  Flawed?  That’s how a lot of people look at God.  That’s not how these martyrs are looking at God; they call His ways “Righteous and true.”  They are perfectly upright.  And not only that, everything God does is true.  You know, philosophers they get into this conversation, “can God make a rock so big that He can’t move it” and things like that.  You know, really important things to think about I guess….  I just have a simple answer to that.  The answer is NO, because God is always sovereign over His creation.  Creation can’t get out of control or He wouldn’t be God.  So everything God does is right and it’s absolutely true and there are some things God can’t do, like make a rock so big that He can’t move it.

One of the things God can’t do is He can’t lie.  Hebrews 6:18 says this, “…it is impossible for God to lie.”  [Hebrews 6:18, “so that by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have taken refuge would have strong encouragement to take hold of the hope set before us.”]   A pastor could lie, a board could lie, a church could lie, a Christian could lie.  God can’t do that.  That’s why it’s so important to build your life on what God says, NOT what man says.  God is always going to tell you the truth.  In fact, Jesus said in John 14:6, “I am THE way, THE truth, and THE life, no man comes to the Father but by Me.”  So God’s ways are righteous and His ways are true.  That’s why these martyrs, in their position of victory are praising the Lord.

I ran into this very interesting Psalm this week as I was looking at this, Psalm 103:7, “He made known His ways to Moses but His acts to the nation of Israel.”  What is God being praised for here?  He is being praised for His ways.  Moses didn’t just know the acts of God, he knew the ways of God.  The acts of God everybody knew; today, if you were to walk around our city and interview people and ask for information on the acts of God you could probably get people to rattle off all kinds of data… the crucifixion, the resurrection, the ascension, the Exodus crossing, the Canaan conquest, on and on we could go but it’s more intimate not just to know His acts but to know His ways.  To know His ways is more personal.  Everybody else knew what God did but Moses had such a close walk with the Lord that he actually knew not just God’s acts but His ways.  How does God think?  How could you recognize the hand of God in something?  You have to have more intimate knowledge than just His acts; you have to know His ways, how He does things.  And I think that’s the type of disciples and Christians we should be aspiring to be.  Those with such an intimate walk with the Lord that we not only recognize what He does, what He has done, what He will do, His acts, but also His ways, and then praising the Lord because of His knowledge.

And then they’re praising Him because of His regal authority.  Look at the end of verse 3, “Righteous and true are Your ways” and they described Him as the “King of the nation.”  [Revelation 15:3, “And they sang the song of Moses, the bond-servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations!”]  That’s who Jesus is.  Jesus is the King of the nations.  Now the mistake that people make is they think He’s exerting that kingly authority right now.  No He’s not!  There’s someone else running the world system, and who would that be? Satan.  The story of the Book of Revelation is how Satan is evicted from the planet and how God establishes His authority over the earth as He always intended.

So this is what we would call a proleptic statement; it’s a statement about the coming reign of Christ over the earth even thought that reign hasn’t materialized yet.  It’s like when we sing the song Crown Him With Many Crowns.  Why do we sing that when He hasn’t been coronated yet?  Because it’s proleptic.  It’s so certain that it’s going to happen you can speak of it in the present tense.  It’s obvious that this reign hasn’t happened yet because when you go down to verse 4 it says,  “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name?”  And then it says in verse 4, “For all the nations will come and will worship ….”   [Revelation 15:4] “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU, FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED.”]  When you study “come and worship” in verse 4 you’ll see those are in the future tense in the Greek language.

So just because the elders are praising the Lord for His regal authority doesn’t mean that regal authority has been exerted  yet.  That’s coming!   And that’s what the Book of Revelation is driving us to.  We’ve seen kinds of things like this, earlier on in the book, Revelation 1:6, “He has made us to be a kingdom of priests.” Did you know you’re a kingdom of priests; that’s your position in Christ.  Well does that mean we’re ruling the world right now?  NO, because chapter 5, verse 10, a little bit later says, “You have made them to be a kingdom of priests to our God; and they” what? “will reign upon the earth.”  [Revelation 5:10]  In other words Revelation 1:6 is a proleptic statement, your authority in Christ is so certain that Revelation 1:6 can present it as if  it’s already happened, even though we know from the rest of the Book of Revelation that it is yet future.

I mean, you want to talk about something to praise God for, praise Him for this, that this world in its sickened state is not always going to be this way.  One of these days right is going to be exalted; justice is going to be exalted over the earth.  You say well, I don’t know what newspaper you’re reading because I just saw a few headlines last night of mass shootings.  Well,  you look at that through the lens of God’s Word and you recognize that His reign is so certain, even though it’s future we can speak of it as happening in the present.  Therefore the things that happen in our world are abnormal.  The day is coming when things will be made right.  What’s happening today is an abnormality.  And you live that perspective and that gives you something to praise God about in a depressing world.  Amen!  And it gives you something that people desperately need today, which is hope, optimism for the future.

People criticize our view of eschatology, they say oh, you guys are always talking about the antichrist and the one-world religious system and the one-world money system and you’re so negative, and you’re so pessimistic, it’s always gloom and doom.  Sometimes we get labeled pessmillennialist.  But I’m not sure what Bible everybody is reading.  To me, I’m a flaming optimist; I’m about as optimistic as a person could be.  I don’t trust man in terms of his ability to fix the things of this world; I trust the coming reign of Jesus Christ which will make everything right.  And that is a biblical  certainty.  So if  you want to praise the Lord, praise the Lord for that.  That’s what these martyrs are doing, they’re praising the Lord for His regal authority.

And this continues on into verse 4 where they begin to praise the Lord for His doxological purpose.  What does that mean?  The purpose of God, the purpose of human history, the purpose for my life, the purpose for your life.  Why were you conceived?  Why do you exist?  Why are you here?  You have a purpose and what is that purpose?  It’s to glorify God.  Now we glorify Him in different ways but that is the overarching purpose of every human being.  And if you’re living outside or your purpose you’re living outside of your design.  See that?   And that doxological purpose begins to be unfolded there in verse 4; it says, “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU, FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED.”

What you have here is a description of the doxological purpose of mankind which is go glorify God.
And how exactly do you do that?  You’ll notice there in verse 4 it says, “Who will not fear, O Lord,” what does that mean?  Does that mean I get myself into a state of anxiety, sweaty palms, I’m really afraid of God.  That’s not what fear means!  What it means is respect, respect for God, respect for God’s truth, respect for the ways of God.  And if a person has that in their heart then they have knowledge because Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  What is wisdom?  It’s knowledge applied.  Well how do I get knowledge to apply?  “The fear of the LORD.”  If a person won’t respect God, won’t fear God the way it’s described here in the Bible, they don’t have understanding, and if you don’t have understanding how could you have wisdom, which is simply knowledge applied.  Boy, we’ve really missed out on the fundamental purpose for our existence when we don’t fear God.

And what else am I supposed to do?  It doesn’t just say fear the Lord, verse 4, it says glorify Him.  That’s our doxological purpose; everything we do should be a reflection of glory unto the Lord.  Why am I up here preaching?  To draw attention to myself?  I sure hope not!  I hope I’m here to glorify God.  Why do you show up to work every day, Monday through Friday?  To earn a paycheck?  That’s part of it, but your job itself is a ministry, glory unto the Lord.   Why do we have elders and deacons and musicians in this church?  What are we doing here exactly?  Well through different ways that God has made us and gifted us we are directing glory to God.  That’s where you find fulfillment in your life, because you’re living within the design that God gave you.  You know, there’s so much emptiness, brokenness, unhappiness in the human heart and it really has to do with the fact that people are living outside of the box God made them for.

We exist to give glory unto the Lord.  In fact,  you might remember Revelation 14:7, remember the angel that was flying to and fro giving men the eternal gospel?  What did that angel say?  “And with a loud voice he said, ‘Fear God, and give Him glory, because the hour of His judgment has come; worship Him who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and the springs of water.”  What is he saying?  “Fear God,” glorify God which translates into worship unto God.  That’s why these harps are here and these musical instruments are here, because that’s what these martyrs who are now victors are doing.  They’re fearing God which gives them knowledge and then wisdom and they’re giving God the glory that He rightfully deserves.  And it’s not just attaching it to some kind of never world, they’re giving it to an object   because it mentions here His name.   “Who will not fear, O LORD, and glorify Your name.”  [Revelation 15:4, “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; For ALL THE NATIONS WILL COME AND WORSHIP BEFORE YOU, FOR YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED.”]

The name of God is a big deal.  In fact, the Book of Acts, chapter 4 and verse 12 says, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other” what? “ name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”  Apparently the name of God is a big deal; His worship is not just some kind of casual spiritual experience, giving praise to some  undefined entity; it’s focused to a specific name, the name of Jesus Christ.

And they move on and they begin to talk about the holiness of God, verse 4, “Who will nor fear, O LORD, and glorify Your name for You are” what? “holy.”   Think of the angels, the seraphim, that surround the throne room of God. What do they say day and night?  “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD GOD Almighty,” Isaiah 6:3, Revelation 4:8.  [Isaiah 6:3, “And one called out to another and said, “Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts, The whole earth is full of His glory.”  Revelation 4:8, “And the four living creatures, each one of them having six wings, are full of eyes around and within; and day and night they do not cease to say, “HOLY, HOLY, HOLY is THE LORD GOD, THE ALMIGHTY, WHO WAS AND WHO IS AND WHO IS TO COME.”]

I mean, that is who God is!  That is His dominant character! That is His dominant attribute!  It’s interesting they don’t sit around and says love, love, love is the Lord God Almighty.  Now He is loving.  Gracious, gracious, gracious is the Lord God Almighty.  By the way, He is gracious.  But they’re attracting attention to His dominant attribute, His attribute of holiness.  And who else can possess that other than God?  What is holiness?  It’s perfect uprightness.  It’s very clear here, it says, “For you alone are holy.”  You know, when a Christian falls or fumbles and  you hear other people say I can’t trust Christ look at what happened to that person’s life.  Or look at how that person fails or folded or look at the hypocrisy in that person or this person.  And by the way, we have a lot of hypocrisy in our church, like there is in any church where people just say I’m not going to go to church because there’s too many hypocrites in the church, I just like to say well we always have room for one more.  [Laughter]

And what happens is we look at a Christian that’s failed and we lose our faith because of that when in reality our eyes are on the wrong object. Why are we looking at people?  We should be looking at God because it’s very clear here that “You alone are holy.” [Revelation 15:4, “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy;”]  Remember the man that came up to Jesus and said “Good Master” and what Jesus said?  “Why do you call Me good, no one is good except God alone.”  [And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” Mark 10:18.  And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.”  Luke 18:19]  Now in the process Jesus revealed Himself as God but it’s a reminder to us to keep our focus on the right object.

We move away from His holiness to His regal destiny.  We see that in verse 4, “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name for You are holy” and watch this, “for all the nations will” future tense, “for all the nations will come and worship before  you.”  Now back in verse 3 we learned that He is the King of the nations; now in verse 4 we’re moving away from His identity, His regal identity to His actual regal destiny, that Jesus Christ is destined to sit on David’s throne in Jerusalem and all of the nations of the earth will come and worship Him.  In fact, what about people that don’t want to come and worship Him.  Zechariah 14:16-18 indicates that they will not receive rain for their crops.

Zechariah 14:16-18, “Then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths. [17] And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth” this is in the thousand year kingdom, “that does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them.  [18] If the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the LORD smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths.”  So God is going to make sure that all of the nations of the earth during this thousand year kingdom are going to worship His Son, Jesus Christ.  That is not just the identity of Jesus, that’s His destiny.  He is destined to be worshipped by the whole planet.  And if that’s true why not get a head start?  Why not worship Him now?  Because that’s who He is and that’s what His destiny is.

And one more, His “RIGHTEOUS ACTS,” the martyrs are praising Him because of His righteous acts, “YOUR RIGHTEOUS ACTS HAVE BEEN REVEALED.”  Notice that God’s acts  in history are “RIGHTEOUS.”   And notice that these acts “HAVE BEEN REVEALED.”  Where are they revealed exactly? In this Book, the Bible.  They are also revealed in the whole Book of Revelation that we’ve studied.  I mean why even bring this up now?  Why do we have to have a tutorial on the righteous acts of God?  I think it partly has to do with the fact that the judgments that are coming in the Book of Revelation are of such a severe quality that humanity is raising its collective fist against God and arguing what right do You have to do this?  I mean, what right do You have to take the ocean and turn it to blood red, which is coming in Revelation 16?  What right do you have, God, to usher in the greatest earthquake in human history, which is coming in Revelation 16?  What right do you have, God, to topple the empire of the antichrist, called Babylon, which is coming in Revelation?  Who do YOU THINK YOU ARE!!!

Well, the reminder is given that everything God does is right.  In fact, if I ever get to a position in my Christian life where I’m reading God’s Word and I’m second guessing God the problem isn’t with God, the problem is with who?  The problem is with me!  Isaiah 55:8-9 says this, God says, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,” declares the LORD.  [9] “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.”  WOW!!!!  Do we understand that compared to God our intellects are just a little [can’t understand word] if I could put it that way.  It’s like an ant on an ant hill looking at the human race and saying how dare you.  That’s humanity’s rebellion against God, second guessing God.  How in the world could we second guess God when His ways are higher than my ways and His thoughts than my thoughts.  [Isaiah 55:9, “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts.”]   After all at the end of the day He’s the Creator, I’m the what?  The creation; who am I to second guess God?

Beyond that even the things I think are corrupted by my sin nature.  Not only am I finite in terms of my knowledge but even the thoughts I think are corrupted because of my Adamic nature.  And compare that to God who is not just omnipotent, not just omnipresent but omniscient and knows everything?  And His thoughts are not tainted by a sinful nature.  And we think we can second guess God which is silly when you think about it.  So yes, these judgments are difficult and they are severe but they’re right!  What God is executing on this earth is right!  And so these martyrs begin to explode into praise unto God.

So we’ve seen the manifestation of the seven plagues and the martyrs hymn or doxology unto God and when we reconvene the next Lord’s day we’ll take it up there in verse 5 and see what is happening in the heavenly tabernacle.

But you know, you may be here today and you may not have a relationship with Jesus Christ, and you’re saying what does all this stuff you guys celebrated earlier with the cup and the bread, I just don’t understand all of that.  It’s all very simple, it’s called the gospel.  “Gospel” means good news.  It’s good news because Jesus did everything necessary to bridge the gap between fallen humanity and a Holy God.  He took the penalty of our sin and our place.  The story of the Bible is not man reaching up to God; it’s God reaching down to man in the person of Jesus Christ with a gift.  And what were the final words that Christ said on the cross?  “It is finished!”  Everything’s been paid for.  The only thing left for us as lost people to do is to receive it as a gift.  It’s not something you can work for.  “For by grace you have been saved by faith.”  It is “Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Isaiah 64:6 says our works of righteousness are as filthy rags unto God.  [Isaiah 64:6, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags;” KJV]  God is not interested in my religiosity, He’s not interested in my good works, He’s interested in me receiving a gift from Him.  And so many people can’t do that because it’s hard to receive a gift, isn’t it?  It’s much easier to give a gift than to receive a gift.  But a gift is just that, it’s a gift, it’s something you can’t work for.  If I buy my daughter a brand new car for her 16th birthday (and don’t tell her I said that because don’t put any thoughts into her mind) but let’s say hypothetically I do that, take her outside, here’s a car, here’s the keys, oh, by the way, when are you going to start making payments? It’s no longer a gift, is it?  A gift only has value to someone if they receive it.  How do you receive a gift from God? It’s very clear in the Bible… by faith!  “For the one who does not work but believes, his faith is accounted unto righteousness.”  [Romans 4:5, “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.”]

Believe simply means trust, it means to rely upon, it means to depend upon.  There comes a point in  your life where the Spirit convicts you and you simply rest or trust in what Jesus did for  you 2,000 years ago.  That’s how simple it is to become a Christian.  It is not a twelve step program; it’s a one step program!  It’s not something you have to walk an aisle to do, join a church to do, give money to do, it’s just a matter of privacy between you and the Lord where you rest or trust in what Jesus did for you 2,000 years ago.  And if that’s something that you have done or are doing even as I speak and you can do it right now even as I speak, in total privacy, then on the authority of the Word of God you’ve just changed  your whole eternal destiny.