A Tale of Two Cities
Revelation 16:17-21 Lesson 51
Good morning everybody. Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to the Book of Revelation, chapter 16, and looking this morning at verses 17-21. The title of our message this morning is A Tale of Two Cities. We continue to move through chronologically through the Book of Revelation; we’re sort of in that second part of the chart, the second half of the tribulation period. And we recently have been studying how the various bowl judgments will be poured out upon the earth. Every time an angel empties the contents of his bowl from heaven another judgment comes to the earth. And this morning we are taking a look at the final bowl judgment, which you’ll find described in verses 17-21 of the Book of Revelation.
Here is sort of our outline that we can follow this morning as we take a look at what God might say to us today through this Revelation concerning this judgment that is yet to come to the earth. Notice if you will verse 17 as the seventh angel pours out his bowl. [Revelation 16:16, “And they gathered them together to the place which in Hebrew is called Har-Magedon.”  Then the seventh angel poured out his bowl upon the air, and a loud voice came out of the temple from the throne, saying, “It is done.” We notice the chronology that’s being given here, first angel, second angel, third angel, right down to the seventh angel. The attention to numbering in my mind very clearly communicates a chronology and that’s how we have been teaching the Book of Revelation, essentially affecting the fact that it’s chronologically sequential, for the most part.
You’ll notice that it draws our attention there in verse 17 to “the temple from the throne,” in heaven. Why the focus there? Because that, as we saw back in chapter 15 and into chapter 16 is the location from which these judgments will come to the earth. They originate from God in His heavenly temple. And then you’ll notice also there in verse 17 where it says, as the angel is about to pour forth his bowl, you’ll notice the expression “It is done.” And you’re probably saying praise the Lord for that, this series in Revelation is about all I can take. But we are at the last judgment of the last judgment. This is the last of the last; this is the final judgment of the final set of judgments that we’re reading about here this morning in verses 17-21.
And as this angel pours out his bowl it’s interesting that suddenly you have an expression of thunder and lightning from heaven. Look at verse 18, the first part of the book. “ And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder;” now this is not really the first time where we have thunder and lightning in the Book of Revelation. You might recall Revelation 11:19 as these judgments are transpiring. There it says, “And there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder….” So thunder and lightning is not new but you’ll notice how it continues on as we move through the Book of Revelation.
And then you get to the second part of verse 18 which is really where our focus is this morning and you have described here not just an earthquake but the greatest earthquake that has ever hit the world. The second part of verse 18 says, “and there was a great earthquake,” the word “great” there is mega, and the word “earthquake” there is Greek is (listen to this) seismos. So you can see where we get a lot of our concepts related to seismic proportions, these kinds of things from that word “earthquake.” “and there was a great earthquake” watch this, “such as there had never been since man came upon the earth, so great an earthquake was it, and so mighty.”
Of course, there have always been earthquakes in human history. There was a man named Pliny the elder, all the way back in A.D. 77 who wrote a book called Natural History. And in that book Natural History he talks about how the greatest earthquake in human memory had happened in A.D. 17. So it’s interesting to me how the human race has already sort of categorized earthquakes. When earth-quakes happen humans have a tendency to recognize they happened, they’re sort of looked at as historical markers, sort of looked at as ways to read the calendar and figure out what era or time we’re living in. And so earthquakes have always had a tremendous effect on the psyche of humanity.
And of course as we have traveled through the Book of Revelation there have been other earthquakes, haven’t there? Revelation 11:13 says, “In that hour there was a great earthquake.” [Revelation 11:13 says, “And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.”] Revelation 11:19 says, “and an earthquake … and a great hailstorm.” [Revelation 11:19, “And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm.”]
So we have had earthquakes in human history, we have had earthquakes even thus far in our study of the Book of Revelation but nothing like this earthquake that’s mentioned here. People use the name “the BIG one,” this is “the BIB one.” Once this seventh bowl is poured out upon the earth the human race will experience the greatest shaking of the earth that has ever happened since humanity existed. And this sort of makes us aware of the fact that the things that we’re living for many times in the world are very temporary. I mean, if the greatest earthquake is destined to hit this planet then maybe all of the effort I’ve been putting into my retirement home (let’s just pretend like I have one set up, hypothetically) maybe all that sweat and energy and concern really shouldn’t be quite what it is. Is it wrong to have a retirement home? NO, but let’s just keep things in perspective here. What the Bible teaches is that everything that can be shaken will be shaken. And if that’s true how important it is to live one’s life for the things that are eternal, which cannot be shaken.
The Book of Hebrews, chapter 12, verses 26-28 puts it this way. “And His voice shook the earth then, but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth, but also the heaven.”  This expression, “Yet once more,” denotes the removing of those things which can be shaken, as of created things, so that those things which cannot be shaken may remain.  Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe;  for our God is a consuming fire.”
Isn’t it wonderful as a Christian to know that just as everything on this earth that can be shaken will be shaken. We are in inheritors of something that cannot be shaken. In fact, the Book of Hebrews, Hebrews 12:28 in the Scripture that I just read, tells us that we should “show gratitude” because of this. This should be one of the things that we praise the Lord for, that we are inheritors of something which cannot be shaken. Think of living one’s life without that perspective, going through life sort of clinging to the things of this earth, status, career, prestige, property, pleasure, just sort of clinging to those things as if those are the only things to live for, only to discover in many instances those things can be taken away, those things can be shaken. In fact, if I’m reading my Bible correctly they can be shaken and they will be shaken and they will be taken away.
You think back in history, 1929, the dropping of the stock market, the terrible crash that happened and the people that began to throw themselves off of buildings and so forth because of that. And you can sort of see why they would do it if they weren’t living for a kingdom that cannot be shaken. But if my whole hope and perspective on life relates to the things of the earth you can see how despondent people can become, even to the point of suicide when finances or health or relationships or other things are shaken.
You know, as a Christian you can lose everything and be disappointed but at the same time hope it doesn’t disappear from the Christian because the Christian is an inheritor of something that cannot be shaken. And how important it is to live for those eternal things and to look at the things in life which are taken away so easily, taken away so easily vanish as sort of well, you know, oh well, God told me that would happen and it’s happened and I’ve sort of kept a loose grip on it so yes, I’m disappointed but my identity is not at stake, my future is not at stake, my hope is snot at stake because I’m living for something which cannot be shaken.
1 John 2:15-17 tells the believer, “ Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.  For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world.  The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.”
The Book of Revelation reminding us of this, reminding us of an earthquake that’s coming where literally everything that can be shaken will be shaken. The defamation as we’ll see in subsequent verses. Verse 19 we’ll get to in just a moment is the collapse of two cities, two famous cities. Verse 20 is the moving away as a result of this massive earthquake of every mountain and island. And isn’t it interesting that earthquakes have a way of humbling us. We have sort of an illusion that we’re in control of things, don’t we? We think we’re in control; we think we’re in charge. I think it’s somehow related to our sin nature where we seek to live independently from God. God, I’ll check in with you when I need you kind of attitude; I’ve got things taken care of for the time being.
And isn’t it interesting how the ground moving beneath one’s feet is such a reminder that we don’t control anything. In fact, the control that we think we have is largely an illusion. I had the opportunity to make two return trips last summer, the summer that we’re coming out of, I guess that would be the last summer, the recent summer, how’s that, to California and in our gym trip there were two tremors that took place. I grew up in California, I grew up with tremors, but having those tremors happen, having the ground shake, to move beneath my feet, it never sort of… you never lose the sort of the fear you’re gripped with when that happens. But how bad is this going to get? When is the ground going to stop moving? And so these tremors have a way of humbling us, reminding us that we really aren’t in control of anything.
And I think God many times helps us with this illusion of control that we’re in by sending into our lives certain tremors. Maybe not physical earthquakes, maybe not literal earthquakes, the kind we’re reading about here, but there are emotional earthquakes, relational earthquakes, financial earthquakes, career type earthquakes. And we have a tendency to look at those things as the enemy when in fact I’m convinced that many times God allows them or God sends them as a plan, as sort of a reminder to help us with the fact that our mindset of control is just an illusion. The fact of the matter is your very next breath wouldn’t exist if God had not allowed it. And it’s easy to forget that and so God says let me just send you a little reminder, let me send you a little wake up call.
And earthquakes are interesting because they have a tendency to humble us, to get us away from a mentality which says well God, I’ve got it under control, I’ll check in when I need you. When an earthquake goes off in your life and whether you like it or not God has your attention. Amen! In fact, He’s got your attention in a way He could probably never have your attention if that tremor had not just gone off. And so no doubt many of you are experiencing this week, this month, this year, a tremor of some kind. I would just invite you turn that into an opportunity instead of an enemy and say okay Lord, You’ve got my attention. Speak, your servant is listening. I know I don’t typically have that mindset during times of prosperity but I sure have that mindset during times of adversity.
So humanity here with the seventh bowl judgment begins to experience the greatest earthquake in human history resulting in the destruction of two cities. That’s why I’ve entitled this message A Tale of Two Cities. You’ll see both of those cities described there in verse 19. Notice what the first part says, “The great city” as a result of this earthquake, “The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell.” And you say well what “great city” is that talking about? I’m convinced that that first city mentioned is the city of Jerusalem.
Why would I say that? I say that at least for three reasons. First of all the city is split into thirds and one of the things that you’ll discover in the Book of Revelation as you’re studying it and reading it you’re going to say to yourself that reminds me of something in the Old Testament. No doubt the Book of Revelation expects us to approach it with a knowledge of the Old Testament in view. In fact, the Book of Revelation, you might be shocked to discover, has 404 verses in it; I believe 278 of those verses of 404 allude in some way to the Old Testament. When you think about a city being divided into thirds you ought to think about Ezekiel 5 because the prophet Ezekiel was told by God to get a haircut. Cut your hair and cut your beard and let the hair sit there in a pile on the floor.
And this was something that God told Ezekiel to do just prior to the Babylonian captivity six centuries before the time of Christ. He’s told to take a third of that hair and burn it, indicating the famine and the plague that would overtake Jerusalem when the captivity started. The second part of the third he is told to chop it with the sword indicating Nebuchadnezzar’s sword that was to come against a third of the inhabitants of Jerusalem; a third would be destroyed in famine and a plague, a third would be destroyed by sword. And then the third part of the hair he’s told to just sort of scatter it into the air, speaking of how Nebuchadnezzar would come and he would scatter the nation of Israel from their land.
You’ll see all this in the Bible; you’ll see it in Ezekiel 5:1-2. God says to Ezekiel, “As for you, son of man, take a sharp sword; take it and use it as a barber’s razor on your head and your beard. Then make scales for weighing and divide the hair.  One third you shall burn in the fire at the center of the city, when the days of the siege are completed. Then you shall take one third and strike it with the sword all around the city, and one third you shall scatter to the wind; and I will unsheathe a sword behind them.” The division into thirds reminds us of the city of Jerusalem in the days of Ezekiel. The division of thirds here, no doubt, reminds us of the city of Jerusalem.
It’s also interesting as you get into this, not only is the city split into three parts but you’ll notice number two, that the city is distinguished from the nations. Did you catch that. The city was split into three parts and the cities of the nations fell. The word translated “nations” there is ethnos, meaning Gentiles, ethnicity meaning Gentiles. So this city, a Jewish city, is distinguished from the Gentiles. That’s another reason, I think, this is talking here about the city of Jerusalem. And then there’s a third reason I think this is referring to the city of Jerusalem is it calls this particular city “the great city.” If you’ve been tracking with us through the book of Revelation that nomenclature should ring a bell because the city of Jerusalem, earlier in Revelation 11, was called “the great city.”
Speaking of the two witnesses, killed in the city streets of Jerusalem, it says in Revelation 11 verse 8 “And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.” Where was Christ crucified? Jerusalem. The “great city” here is a reference to Jerusalem. Looking back, chapter 16, verse 19, back to chapter 11, verse 8, I think the great city there is also the city of Jerusalem. What is happening here with this seventh bowl judgment and the greatest earthquake in human history? Jerusalem is destroyed. Jerusalem in all of our travel brochures when we’re convincing people to come with us to Israel and tour Israel; we have these wonderful pictures of the city of Jerusalem and if I’m understanding my Bible correctly that whole thing is destroyed with the seventh bowl judgment.
Why would God destroy the city of Jerusalem? Because of the spiritual state of the city of Jerusalem at this time. You’ll notice Revelation 11:8 calls that city “mystically.” [Revelation 11:8, And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city which mystically is called Sodom and Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.”] In other words, here is a spiritual application, “mystically Sodom and Egypt.” Sodom symbolizing depravity; Egypt symbolizing bondage and legalism.
And I’m here to tell you that that’s what Jerusalem is today. Wait a minute pastor, you sound like one of those replacement theologians. Not at all! I love the Jewish people, I love God’s work in regathering the Jewish people, but here’s the thing to understand is the Jewish people today in the nation of Israel living in the city of Jerusalem are unbelievers. Consequently their destiny in God through tribulation, a time of Jacob’s trouble is to be converted. In fact, this process is going to be so strenuous that according to Zechariah’s prophecies, chapter 13, verses 8 and 9, only a third will be converted. [Zechariah 13:8-9, ““It will come about in all the land,” Declares the Lord, “That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; But the third will be left in it.  “And I will bring the third part through the fire, Refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”]
Until that happens Jerusalem is just like any other city. You know, we have gay right parades in San Francisco, I can show you times on the calendar where the identical type of parade takes place right there in the city streets of Jerusalem. Many of the inhabitants of that city, not just in a state of depravity but in a state of bondage, Egypt, thinking that somehow their religiosity is going to make them right with their god, not understanding grace and unmerited favor. Of all the understandings that we have, that is something that does not exist in the city of Jerusalem. This is a process that they will go through to learn these truths. And so that old structure, God is going to take it in this seventh bowl and destroy that great city.
And you say well, does that mean God is finished with the city of Jerusalem? Not at all! He’s getting ready for His version of the city of Jerusalem, His original intention, the way He always wanted it, for it will be a literal city during the thousand year kingdom, after the second coming of Christ, and it will be the headquarters of the entire world. It will not just be a city of political significance, even more important to God than that is it will be a city of spiritual significance.
In fact, that’s where Jesus is going to live for a thousand years; did you know that? The world will go there to worship Him. Zechariah 14:16-18 God says, “ 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.  And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, there will be no rain on them.  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.”
People say to me well Andy, should we take a trip to Jerusalem. And my answer is why not, you’re going to get there one way or the other, you might as well go now and just sort of get the lay of the land, because the world will travel to Jerusalem during the millennial kingdom to worship the King of Kings. Isaiah 2:2-3 says, “Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains, and will be raised above the hills; and all the nations will stream to it.  And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways…..” You mean the nations one day are going to go to Jerusalem not to impose their own will on the Jews but to learn the ways of God? “… teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.’ For the law will go forth from Zion and the word of the Lord from” Washington D.C….. it doesn’t say that, “from Jerusalem.”
The whole plan of God is to get the world ready for that and yet what Jerusalem represents today is a far cry from what’s coming. And so God allows this city to be destroyed. It’s interesting to me that when Satan is in his place of incarceration for a thousand years and he’s let out of his abyss, Revelation 20:7-9, and he is allowed at the end of that millennial kingdom one last stand, one last hoorah, who does he attack exactly? Revelation 20:9 says “They came up on the broad plain of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city,” an obvious reference to Jerusalem.
Why would Satan, in his last stand against God, at the end of the thousand year kingdom come against Jerusalem? Because Jerusalem is where the action is. Jerusalem is the nerve center, it’s the headquarters of the millennial kingdom. The great scholar, Robert Thomas describing those verses says, “At the end of the millennium that city will be Satan’s prime objective with his rebel army because Israel [from Jerusalem] will be leader again amongst the nations.” I love Jerusalem, I even get the liver quiver when I’m there. There’s no more special place on planet earth than Jerusalem. And yet as wonderful as that place is it’s but a fraction of everything God has intended for that city and thus the old must be destroyed to make way for the new. And so in this second bowl judgment Jerusalem is destroyed.
Now if you read verse 19 very carefully there’s a second city that is destroyed, you’ll notice in many English translations, like for example, the New American Standard Bible which I’m using today, you’ll notice that after it describes Jerusalem the English translators put a period there in the English translation. Why did they do that? Because of the Greek text reflecting an idea that now we’re going to be described in another city. What’s that second city? Babylon the Great, the second part of versed 19, was remembered before God to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath. I believe you have now a second city being described, Babylon the Great.
Don’t confuse Jerusalem with Babylon and don’t confuse Babylon with Jerusalem. Those are two completely different cities. How do I know that? Well, one of the reasons I know that is because the basement of the Book of Revelation is the Book of Daniel. If you want to understand the Book of Revelation you have to understand the Book of Daniel; if you want to understand the Book of Daniel you have to understand the Book of Revelation. Daniel is the basement, Revelation is the ceiling. You’ve got to understand both together.
And Babylon the Great has a paper trail, doesn’t it? Remember what Nebuchadnezzar said one day? Daniel 4:30, “The king reflected and said, ‘Is this not Babylon the great,” now here comes the I’s, too many I’s here, “which I myself have built as a royal residence by the might of my power and for the glory of my majesty?’” You want to talk about an earthquake that’s about to go off in his life, he had that for seven years as he became an insane animalistic type person for seven times because of that pride. And yet God, in His grace, restored Nebuchadnezzar when he came to his senses right back to the throne. Isn’t that amazing?
See, the earthquakes that go off in your life are not really designed to destroy you; we think so but God is just trying to wake us up because He wants to use us. He wants to restore us. But how do you use somebody that’s so lifted up with pride because of the illusion of control that we don’t even think we need God. And so this earthquake went off in Nebuchadnezzar’s life but you’ll notice when Nebuchadnezzar is making this prideful statement he uses the expression Babylon the Great. What is he talking about? The Roman Catholic Church? It didn’t exist yet. The Roman Empire? It didn’t exist yet. He’s talking about the city of Babylon between the Euphrates and the Tigris. One of the hanging gardens there, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, when the same expression shows up in Revelation 16:19 it’s talking about the same city that is destined to be rebuilt and become the headquarters of the antichrist during this coming seven year tribulation period. [Revelation 16:19, “The great city was split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. Babylon the great was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath.”]
A tale of two cities, you have to keep the cities separate. Did you know that the city of Jerusalem in the Bible is mentioned 800 times? And you know what it means every single time? Jerusalem! I know that’s why you come here to Sugar Land Bible Church, to get these really cutting edge insights. Did you know that the name Babylon is mentioned 300 times in the Bible and do you know what it always means? Babylon! Why would John, at the end of the Bible all of a sudden get confused and switch the terms around? That wouldn’t make any sense. A tale of two cities, Babylon is first mentioned in Genesis 11:8-9, the city, therefore its name was called Babel. [Genesis 11:8-9, “So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city.  Therefore its name was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of the whole earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the whole earth.”]
Bab gates el God, the gate of Gods, to quote those great theologians, Led Zeppelin is it, I think it’s Led Zeppelin, is it Led Zeppelin, A Stairway to Heaven? Did I get that right? Don’t say yes because then you’ll reveal how carnal you are. [Laughter] The gate of the gods, a stairway to heaven, right there in modern day Iraq, an area called Shinar, between the Euphrates and the Tigris. That’s the first mention of Babylon.
The first time Jerusalem is mentioned in the entire Bible is Genesis 14 and verse 18 concerning Melchizedek, the “king of Salem.” Doesn’t Salem sound a little bit like Jerusalem? Salem, doesn’t that sound kind of like Shalom, which means peace, the city of peace. “And Melchizedek, the King of Salem, brought out bread and wine; now he was a priest of God Most High.”
Babylon, Genesis 11. Jerusalem, Genesis 14. Now trace those cities all the way through the Bible and you’ll have a tremendous Bible study in your hands. You’ll see those cities interacting over and over and over and over again, always as separate entities. In fact, Babylon, as you know, is the place where the children of Israel were taken into captivity, modern day Iraq, for seventy years. A Tale of Two Cities, the city of God, the city of Satan. You can sort of sum up the whole Bible studying everything God has to say about those two cities. And Babylon in her [can’t understand word] thinks she’s getting away with something. Probably all this time as she was abusing the Jews, taking the Jews into captivity, destroying the temple under Nebuchadnezzar, she probably thought she was getting the upper hand on God’s people and yet like Jerusalem Babylon comes to a crashing halt there in verse 19, “Babylon the great was remembered before God to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath.” [Revelation 16:19] You mean to tell me that Babylon has a cup? Yes she does.
Jeremiah 51:7 of Babylon says, “Babylon has been a golden cup in the hand of the LORD intoxicating, intoxicating” now what do you do with the cup? You get drunk, you intoxicate. Babylon has been a golden cup in the hand of the Lord, intoxicating all of the earth. The nations have drunk of her wine, the nations are going mad. That’s Babylon and her cup, and her legacy.
Now look at Revelation 17:4, which as you know is all about Babylon. What does it say there: “having in her hand a golden” what? “cup full of abominations and of the unclean things of her immorality.” Look at verse 2, “with whom the kings of the earth committed acts of immorality, and those who dwell on the earth were made drunk with the wine of her immorality.” Why had the nations become drunk to the point of madness? Because of the intoxicating influence of Babylon as symbolized through this cup. And you understand that cup and then you understand the language of God who says, verse 19, “Babylon the Great was remembered before God to give her the cup of the wine of His fierce wrath.” [Revelation 16:19]
Do you like a cup Babylon? Do you like the intoxicating influence that you have spread throughout planet earth? Now you’re about to get My cup God says. This is the cup of wrath! A couple of Sunday’s ago I had a chance to teach on some of these things and we had a message entitled The Sarcasm of God. Antichrist, do you like darkness? Fine, then your whole empire will end in physical darkness. Egypt, do you like frogs? Fine, I’ll multiply them everywhere. Egypt, do you worship the Nile? Fine, I’ll turn it into blood.
And here you see again the sarcasm of God, the reminder that God, even in judgment has a sense of humor, reminding creation that who exactly is in charge here. God is in charge! You like the cup? Here’s a cup, here’s the cup of not just My wrath but My fierce wrath. I went and looked that up in the Greek. Normally what’s used for wrath is orgē, that word is severe enough but coupled with it is another word, thumos, anger. The idea is anger to the point of a violent outburst, coupled with wrath. It’s not just wrath but it’s anger. And it’s not just anger but it is wrath because you’ve got two separate Greek words here and the English translation doesn’t know what to do with that. I hardly know what to do with it it’s so severe, just translate it as fierce wrath. But it is anger and wrath, and wrath and anger.
On the plains of Shinar, when they built their first one world system to oppose God and God scattered the language and prevented the workers from working together, this project headed by Nimrod, you get this idea that God has never forgotten about that. He’s never forgotten about Babylon’s abuse of God’s people all the way through the Bible. He’s never forgotten about the captivity that the Babylonians brought the nation of Israel into for seventy years. He’s never forgotten about the destruction of the temple that Nebuchadnezzar destroyed around 586 B.C. That’s why it says God remembered, He gave her a cup, the cup of His fierce countenance.
You say well, pastor, I’d like to learn a little more about Babylon, and you may be sorry you asked that question because what is coming in chapters 17 and 18 is the final of five non-chronological insertions in the Book of Revelation, where you’re going to get an in depth description of Babylon in chapter 17 and verse 18. In fact, look at chapter 17, verse 1, look what it says there. “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls” aha, this is the angel that just poured out the bowl, that brought the destruction of Babylon, “came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here,” to John, “I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters.” And this is what you have in these non-chronological parenthetical insertions, five of them so far, we’ve already studied four, (Can you believe that?) where the chronology stops. It stops saying first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh; it stops and it gives you more insight into something that just happened in the chronology. And that’s what we find coming in chapters 17 and 18. Jerusalem is destroyed, Babylon is destroyed.
And then if you look at verse 20 you have the destruction of every… EVERY… EVERY mountain and island. Have you ever seen an earthquake like that? Such a thing has never happened in history. But this one is coming. Verse 20, “And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.” One of the questions we get in prophecy circles is what’s going to happen to the antichrist’s temple? I mean, we know there’s a third temple, right, because the antichrist, Daniel 9:27, must “put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate” midway through the tribulation period, in the middle of the week we’re told. [Daniel 9:27, “And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”]
The antichrist goes into the third temple, the Jewish temple, and he desecrates it by deifying himself and setting up a pagan image in the temple. Haven’t we covered that issue in depth in Daniel and Revelation? Right in the middle of the tribulation period that happens and yet you can’t have that event unless there’s a what? There’s a temple! So we’ve always believed that a third temple is on the horizon. A third temple will be rebuilt. Having just returned from Jerusalem and visited the temple institute where they take you through from the mindset of an unbelieving Jew who doesn’t function without the light of the New Testament, they’ve got the whole temple laid out, garments selected, the red heifer being bred. All of this to function in this third temple. And we say wow, we’re running out of time here. God’s clock is winding down.
You see, Israel is the hour hand, Jerusalem is the minute hand, the temple Mount is the second hand. That’s how you start to look at these things through the vantage point of prophecy. You start talking to me about a rebuilt temple, oh my goodness. In fact, the temple institute, you can find it as easily as a Google search today, it has videos of a promotional nature, praying about this third temple and they talk about it as if it’s a done deal. And yet what’s going to happen to that third temple? Well I agree with others, like Arnold Fruchtenbaum, that that particular third temple is going to be destroyed, just like the city of Jerusalem is going to be destroyed in bowl judgment number seven. The greatest earthquake in human history which decimates the city of Jerusalem will destroy that third temple as well. Why is that? Because just as God is paving the way for a millennial Jerusalem, a Jerusalem as He intended it, not a Jerusalem that’s mystically called Sodom in Egypt, He’s paving the way for the fourth temple that’s described in tremendous proportions in the Book of Ezekiel that the temple, which the Shekinah glory of God will re-enter. WOW!!!!
You know, when Solomon built that first temple it talks in Kings about how the glory of God filled that place. So from around 966 B.C up until about 586 B.C. the glory of God was everywhere in that temple, and then the glory of God left. You read about it in Ezekiel 8-11 just prior to the Babylonian deportation. Why did the glory of God leave? The glory of God left for the same reason the glory of God leaves anything; man started doing things his own way, without God. And thus Jeremiah and Ezekiel would make predictions and assessments of the nation of Israel at that time. The prophets prophesy falsely, and the priests rule on their own authority; and My people love it so!” Jeremiah 5:31.]
It’s the people that were cheering on the corruption of the priesthood and the prophets. You don’t think that kind of thing can happen in a church today? That kind of thing happens in churches all over this country where what is dictating the church is the itching ears of man, 2 Timothy 4:3-4. [2 Timothy 4:3-4, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires,  and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.”] And that’s why when you get to Laodicea Jesus is on the outside of that church knocking on the door, seeking admission into His own church. And so the glory of God left.
And God, in this seventh bowl destroys that third temple, that abominable statue erected by the antichrist as a worship to himself. Because God is through with temples? Not at all, there’s a fourth one coming and its dimensions are massive in comparison to the second temple, even the original Solomonic temple, the Tabernacle, bigger than even a football field. And it’s going to be functioning for a thousand years in the millennial kingdom and the Shekinah glory of God that left will go back in. Read it for yourself. It’s all in Ezekiel 40-46. Most preachers don’t know what to do with that. You know what they do? They just get white out and allegorize it away, oh, it’s a bunch of excuses, it can’t be real, it can’t be true. Nonsense! Everything that God said is going to happen and God is getting the world ready as Satan is being evicted for his Jerusalem, his version of it, it’s still a physical city, and his temple and his version of it still a physical temple.
And we come now to verse 21where it continues and it says, “And huge hailstones, about a hundred pounds each,” the Greek word there is talent [ταλαντιαία, a talent weight] which most people believe was about a hundred pounds. So it’s translated as a hundred pounds each; huge hailstones, we’re not talking about things that dent your car, the kind of hail storms that we’re used to; we’re talking about huge hailstones of a hundred pounds each come down from heaven upon men.
Now we’ve run into hail before in the Book of Revelation, Revelation 11:19 talks about a great hail storm but not like this, hundred pound hailstones. . [Revelation 11:19, “And the temple of God which is in heaven was opened; and the ark of His covenant appeared in His temple, and there were flashes of lightning and sounds and peals of thunder and an earthquake and a great hailstorm.”] And you know it’s interesting, what’s the oldest book of the Bible? The Book of Job. Do you remember in the Book of Job where God showed up and started to ask questions of Job? You see, the whole Book of Job everybody’s talking, chatty-Kathy dolls, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk, talk talk.
All of them think they understand what’s going on, all of them trying to analyze Job’s predicament. Job doesn’t understand what’s happened to him even though he thinks he understands. Neither do his so-called counsellors, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and then another guy, Elihu, and as readers we’re kind of laughing at this talking, this process of dialogue because we have privy to each the first two chapters that they don’t have. And we’re seeing the limits and definitudes of human understanding because we have privy to the first two chapters that they don’t have. And we’re seeing the limits and finitudes of human understanding.
And then finally God talks and God’s only point is you don’t know anything. And here’s how I’m going to prove to you that you don’t know anything—I’m going to give you a quiz. How would you like a pop quiz from God? And He starts to query Job about creation. Job doesn’t know anything about creation because he wasn’t there, only God knows because He’s the only eyewitness. Carl Sagan doesn’t know either. [Laughter] All of these scientists that come on and tell us billions of years this, billions of years that, big bang this, big bang that, what do they know? They don’t know anything because they weren’t there.
And in the process of this inquiry God says this: Job 38:22, “Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or have you seen the storehouse of the hail?” Job, do you know anything about the hail that I have in heaven? And if I’m understanding this correctly that hail is something God created in heaven and it’s been waiting there since creation itself for bowl number seven because that hail which God created, that Job doesn’t know anything about, now comes out of heaven. Does it not say that there? Does it not say, “And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from” where? “heaven upon men; [and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe.”] And so this hail that God has always had is now released upon the inhabitants of the earth.
You say hail, that’s sure sounds familiar. Doesn’t hail remind us of the seven plagues in the Book of Exodus? Yes it does, just like hail reminds of the seventh plague, and frogs remind us of the second plague. Darkness, fifth bowl, darkness ninth plague. Rivers to blood, third bowl judgment, first plague in the Book of Exodus. Sores, haven’t we read about that? First bowl judgment, Book of Revelation, sixth plague, the Book of Exodus. Have you ever asked yourself why there’s so many similarities here with the Book of Exodus? I mean, when I read the Book of Revelation I think I’m reading the Book of Exodus again.
Why the similarities? There’s a reason for it. For one thing, just as the Exodus judgments happened literally the things that we’re reading about in the Book of Revelation are literal! Beyond that, just as the plagues in the Book of Exodus kept increasing in intensity that’s exactly what we’re seeing in the Book of Revelation isn’t it? Beyond that, just as Pharaoh kept hardening his heart against God that’s what man is doing as we’ll see at the end of this verse.
And finally, in the Book of Exodus what is God doing? What did those ten plagues accomplish? God, in plague number ten finally broke the back of Pharaoh just like He’s breaking the back of Satan here and consequently God’s people were liberated. This is why we call it the Exodus, exit, leaving, they were taken out of 400 years of bondage. What is God doing in the Book of Revelation? He is taking the whole earth out of the bondage that it’s been in since the fall of man! The earth, Romans 8, is in a state of travail, it’s groaning under a curse, it’s been that way, going back to our forbearers in Eden and God is performing the ultimate exodus; Satan is being evicted. And the light and the glory of His kingdom, which will last a thousand years, will now come to the earth, with a rightly functioning Jerusalem, a rightly functioning temple, and a worshipful human race that will travel to Jerusalem to pay proper homage to the King.
How can you bring in something like that unless you evict the adverse possessor? Satan is being evicted, exiting and I think that’s why you have these parallels with the Book of Revelation. I have to be frank with you; it is to the point now where it grieves me when I see churches trying to bring in the Kingdom of God, just social activity or social gospel. Or they call themselves “kingdom builders” or the “kingdom man.” Are you kidding me? The church can’t bring this in! ONLY these judgments orchestrated by God will bring the glorious kingdom of God to the earth. That’s why Jesus told us to pray, “Thy kingdom come,” what are we praying for? We’re praying for this to happen. Revelation 11:15, “The kingdom of this world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.”
And you think humanity would say great, bring it on Lord! But that’s not their reaction, look at the end of verse 21. “And huge hailstones, about one hundred pounds each, came down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe.” “Blasphemed,” what does that mean? It means to speak against someone so as to harm or injure his reputation occurring in relation to persons as well as divine beings to revile, to defame, to blaspheme reviling.
David Hocking in his commentary on the Book of Revelation on this verse says: “It is quite astonishing to read the response of the people of the earth to this remarkable disaster. All hope of survival be gone and nothing but ruins and evidences of total destruction will be evident. And still men do not repent but they do the opposite, but instead blaspheme God for doing it.”
It is not as if God hasn’t given people opportunities throughout the Book of Revelation for repentance. We’ve studied that, Revelation 7, 144,000 Jewish evangelists. Revelation 11, two Jewish witnesses. Revelation 14, an angel flying to and fro giving all men the eternal gospel. And there have been some that have received the grace of God. But by and large it looks like humans are just still humans at the end of the day. They just continue on in their own depravity, not responding to God.
You know, I’m reminded of one of the greatest sermons that was ever preached on the Book of Acts in a place called the Aeropagus; I don’t think there’s ever been a finer evangelistic oratory that’s ever been given, EVER, by the Apostle Paul. You read through that and you say yeah, thumbs up, go Paul! And then you get to the end of the chapter and you see the reaction of people, and this is what it says: [Acts 17:32] “Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead some began to sneer, but others said, ‘We shall hear you again concerning this.” “But some men joined him and believed, [among whom also were Dionysius the Areopagite and a woman named Damaris and others with them.” Acts 17:34]
You hear an address like that, one group is laughing at it; another group is postponing a decision, don’t bother me now with this. By the way, if you postpone a decision you just made a decision. Amen! And you’re presuming that there’s going to be a tomorrow; there may not be a tomorrow. But some believed, sneering postponement believing. It’s so depressing to read that because I would think everybody would respond. I would think by the end of this whole process that we’ve been studying in the Book of Revelation that the world would be converted; some have been but obviously what we’re reading here at the end of verse 21 not all.
And so really, it’s the same issue with us, isn’t it? You hear the gospel, the grace of God, Jesus (as we say over and over again at this church) has stepped out of eternity into time to pay a debt for us that we can’t pay. We take it right out of the Bible, we say it over and over again, we put it on social media. You know what we’re going to get? We’re going to get those same three responses; we’re going to get mockery. How do I know that? Because I’m foolish enough to look at the Facebook comments, many of them very encouraging but you get your mockers on there. Some are going to postpone the decision, oh I don’t want to be bothered with that. But some believe!
Question—where are you in this? When it comes to personal salvation where are you? Let me up the game a little bit. Maybe you are saved and God has spoken to you in this sermon about something in your life that needs a change. Are you a sneerer, a postponer, or a responder? And so our exhortation at Sugar Land Bible Church for those that have never been saved is to get into that camp where they are saved and that happens with simple faith alone in Christ alone receiving what Jesus has done as a gift. It’s not a matter of walking an aisle, joining a church, giving money, it’s a matter of privacy between you and the Lord when you trust in Him and Him alone for salvation. We say that over and over again, we’re saying it again today. There are others that are saved and the Holy Spirit is saying this has to go under My power, this has to change, I have something better for you. And within the body of Christ I would say this; you’re going to get the same three reactions. If the Spirit is convicting you of something are you sneering? Are you postponing? Or are you responding? Our exhortation to the unbeliever is to respond to the cross; our exhortation to the believer it’s to respond to the voice of the Holy Spirit whereby He seeks to transform us and conform us into the image of his Son.
Shall we pray. Father, we’re grateful for what is unfolded to us here at the end of chapter 16, all the truth that’s for us in this seventh and final judgment. I pray that You’ll be with us next week as we will begin to look at the whole subject of Babylon as we move into chapters 17 and 18. We ask that You’ll be with us, we ask that You will guide us this week. We ask these things in Jesus’ name, and God’s people said…. Amen!