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Sun, Aug 10, 2008

161 - Grace in Judgment [b]

Revelation 6:12-17 by Robert Dean
Series:Revelation (2004)
Duration:41 mins 55 secs

Grace in Judgment. Rev. 6:12-17

 

When we talk about the doctrine of judgment in Scripture there are many people who think that somehow the Bible is all about judgment, that God is a negative God, especially that "nasty" God of the Old Testament. But when we study the Old Testament objectively we realise that throughout it what is being taught are doctrines that always go together in tandem. One is the doctrine of grace and the other is the doctrine of judgment. Another way we might put it is the doctrine of salvation and judgment, for whenever God saves there is also judgment. There is salvation at the garden of Eden but there is also judgment; there is salvation with the Noahic flood but there is also judgment; there is salvation as God redeemed the nation Israel from slavery in Egypt but there was also judgment upon those who had rejected God through their disobedience of Him.

 

The Tribulation period is a time of divine judgment. It is a time when God is bringing to a conclusion His judgments in human history, a time when the Lord Jesus Christ is talking the scroll that has been given to Him, which is in effect the title deed of the earth, in order to establish His kingdom upon the earth. Therefore it is a time of cleansing, a time of discipline for sin and rebellion in the human race. But it is not just about that. The book of Revelation is a book that explains the magnificent grace of God and we see a tremendous display of God's grace throughout the Tribulation, it is not just a time of horrific judgments and cataclysms that take place and it is not just a time of incredible and unimaginable suffering for many members of the human race, but it is a time when we see that multitudes will trust Jesus Christ as their saviour. The Scripture says in Revelation chapter seven that the number of martyrs are without number. We see a hint of that as we come to the end of chapter six.

 

In summary, we have seen that the sixth seal judgment is described in terms of a great earthquake, the sun is turned black as sackcloth, the moon turns red like blood, stars fall to the earth, the sky is split like a scroll, and mountains and islands are moved out of their place. This is not simply hyperbolic language, it is language that uses imagery and figures of speech but it is expressing the harshness, the extremities of these judgments. Nothing like this has ever been seen in human history.

 

What we see in these judgments is a pattern of divine judgment that has taken place throughout history—not only divine judgment but when God appears His appearance is often accompanied by earthquakes.

 

1)  In the Old Testament when God appeared on Mount Sinai to Moses to give him the Mosaic law an earthquake occurred, according to Exodus 19:8; Psalm 68:8. So God's presence in His creation is such that it results in certain geophysical consequences.

2)  Elijah on Mount Carmel, when he calls down fire from God, the fire from heaven destroys everything and there is also an earthquake at that time.

3)  At the crucifixion of Christ there is an earthquake, and Matthew tells us that at the same time the graves opened and out from them came certain believers who had died, and they walked about Jerusalem giving testimony to what Jesus Christ has done on the cross.

4)  When Paul and Silas are miraculously released by God from prison at Philippi there is an earthquake at that time as well. So when God is at work in history there is often an association with some sort of shaking of the earth.

 

When we come to the end of history in the Tribulation period it also is marked by earthquakes. There are four major earthquakes in the Tribulation period and we have to distinguish these and relate them also to Old Testament passages that predict the earthquakes, the darkening of the sun, the darkening of the moon, at the time of the great day of the Lord. The day of the Lord primarily relates to that culmination of judgments, the culmination of the Tribulation period when the Lord Jesus Christ returns. So we have to distinguish these events, they are not all the same events. The first earthquake that is mentioned in the Tribulation period is in the sixth seal judgment.

 

The second occurs at the beginning of the trumpet judgments. There is a lull between the sixth seal judgment and the seventh seal judgment. When the seventh seal is opened it reveals seven trumpet judgments, and it is at the end of that lull between the sixth seal judgment and the beginning of the trumpet judgment that we have another great earthquake.

 

Third, we see that in Jerusalem at about the mid-point of the Tribulation, between the sixth and the seventh trumpet judgments (the seventh trumpet judgment contains the seven bowl judgments), there will be an incredible earthquake where 7000 are killed and we are told that all of the rest give glory to the God of heaven. That verse is a clear indication that it is at that point that there are the vast majority of the inhabitants of Jerusalem, Jews living there who to that point still have not responded to the witness of the 144,000 evangelists, who will turn and recognise that Jesus Christ is indeed the Messiah predicted in the Old Testament. This will prepare them as the Antichrist, following that, will desecrate the temple. When they see that they will follow the command of the Lord to leave Jerusalem immediately, head south to the Judean wilderness, east across the Jordan river into the barren wilderness south of the ruins of Petra and the area known as Bazra in the Old Testament. There, at the end of the Tribulation, the Lord Jesus Christ will return and will bring them as a victorious army back into the land to Jerusalem. 

 

Then at the end of the Tribulation period there is another large earthquake that will split Babylon into three parts. This is described in Revelation 16:18, 19. Babylon is the economic centre of the kingdom of the Antichrist during the Tribulation period. 

We must distinguish these judgments from that final earthquake that comes at the end, described in Matthew 24:29; Joel 2 and other passages that relate to the earthquake at the end of the Tribulation period. Matthew 24:29 NASB "But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken." That is similar to the sixth seal judgment but it is not the same. The sixth seal judgment is mild compared to this final judgment. Joel, 2:9, 10 NASB "They rush on the city, They run on the wall; They climb into the houses, They enter through the windows like a thief. Before them the earth quakes, The heavens tremble, The sun and the moon grow dark And the stars lose their brightness…. [30, 31] I will display wonders in the sky and on the earth, Blood, fire and columns of smoke. The sun will be turned into darkness And the moon into blood Before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes." These depict the final judgment and we have to distinguish these subsequent judgments from the sixth seal judgment.

It is in the midst of these horrendous events that the human race is confronted with the fact that these things that are taking place—the wars, the famines, the disease, all of the things that have been coming about for the past several months—are not from just natural consequences, are not the result of man's use of combustible engines, the destruction of climate—are because God is directly intervening in human history to bring judgment. But the purpose of that judgment has a grace aspect to it because in that judgment God is also revealing Himself, revealing His grace, so that there will be those who still have time to respond to the gracious offer of salvation. There are passages in the Old Testament that indicate the importance of people responding in fear in times of judgment. We should recognise the validity of that, that there are times when God has to scare people into trusting Christ. Luke 12:5 NASB "But I will warn you whom to fear: fear the One who, after He has killed, has authority to cast into hell; yes, I tell you, fear Him!" The writer of Hebrews relates this same principle in 10:30, 31 NASB "For we know Him who said, 'VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.' And again, 'THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.' It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

There will be two responses to these judgments in the Tribulation period. They will all have fear, but for some that fear will simply be an occasion to harden themselves further against God, resisting Him. These are the earth dwellers. Then there are those who will respond by trusting in Jesus Christ. Some of those will be martyred but there will be many more who will survive, even in this horrible time of the Tribulation, and they will go into the Millennial kingdom.

The first thing that happens which we see described in Revelation 6:12 is this great earthquake that takes place. For the first time in history there is going to be this earthquake that shakes the world, not just southern California or Mexico or China. The result of this is the second aspect of the judgment, and that is the darkening of the sun and the reddening of the moon. This is described from human perspective, language that we use every day to describe things. Actually the path of light from the sun to the moon is not hindered; it is simply something in the atmosphere of the earth that is causing the sun to appear darkened and the moon to appear red. It is something far beyond anything ever experienced in history. This is going to have consequences related to agriculture, to life on the earth, to health, many different facets and implications from this particular judgment. Then at this time there is going to be an astronomical component, the third element mentioned in the judgment. The stars of heaven will fall to the earth as fig tree drops its figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. The word used here for stars is the Greek word aster [a)sthr] from which we get our word "asteroid." Stars are used in a variety of different ways in the Scriptures. Sometimes they refer to the actual bodies in the heavens but often the word "star" refers to something else—frequently angels in the Scriptures. Jesus Christ is called the morning star in Revelation 2:17; 22:16. But here we have a picture, not of starts because a literal star could not fall to the earth, it would obliterate the planet long before it got here; this is a picture of asteroids or comets falling to the earth and impacting all of the earth.

When we combine the devastating consequences of the earthquakes and the shift of the earth's crust that takes place, plus the damage that is done from these comets or asteroids, we can see that the modern technology of man is going to be pretty much wiped out. The reason that is important is that when we get into certain Old Testament passages that describe the warfare during the Tribulation period—they talk about horses, spears, bows and arrows—many people have tried to explain that as just the ancient world's inability or lack of vocabulary to describe modern weapons. But it would seem that in understanding these kinds of judgments that electrical grids are going to go down, computers are going to be shot, and the use of all technology. All of these are wiped out and man is restored to a somewhat primitive state.

Then in the midst of this John describes something that happens in the sky. He lacks the technical vocabulary to explain it. Whether this is a type of nuclear explosion in the upper atmosphere or whether it is generated by some natural phenomenon in the midst of these judgments, John writes: "The sky was split apart like a scroll." He uses the image of rolling a scroll apart to depict what he sees in the heavens. It is as if the sky itself is split open. Then in conclusion the fifth thing that he mentions is that every mountain and island is moved out of its place. This indicates a world-wide cataclysm, a shift that occurs in the earth's crust. All of the things that we now have to produce power and energy, dams, generating plants, etc. There will be destruction to nuclear power plants that will no longer be able to function. There will be a phenomenal amount of damage that occurs in these judgments, and we are only in the first part of the Tribulation.

 "… the earth's crust, highly unstable ever since the great Flood, will be so disturbed by the impacting asteroids, the volcanic explosions, and the worldwide earthquakes, that great segments of it will actually begin to slip and slide over the earth's deep plastic mantle. Geophysicists for many years have been fascinated with the idea of "continental drift" (although strong evidence has been accumulating against any such phenomenon occurring in the present age). Several have published theories of a past naturalistic catastrophism involving what they call "the earth's shifting crust." Some such phenomenon may actually be triggered under this judgment of the sixth seal, dwarfing the damage occasioned by all the mighty earthquakes of the past – Henry M. Morris, The Revelation Record, p. 123. 

So this is going to be a time of incredible devastation but it is not just judgment. But there are in every segment of society those who will continue to be hardened against God; even with all of these tremendous international demonstrations they will continue to reject God. This points out that the real issue is not intellectual, is not empirical evidence; the issue is volition. Those who choose to reject God will continue to harden themselves no matter what God does to call them back and to remind them of who He is.

We read of their response in Rev 6:16, 17 NASB "and they said to the mountains and to the rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne [God the Father], and from the wrath of the Lamb; for the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to stand?'" This chapter ends with that question and it is answered in the seventh chapter where the first thing we see is that God is going to call out 144,000 Jewish evangelists who will be sealed for protection against any destruction or death or persecution or martyrdom throughout the entire seven-year period of the Tribulation. That is the grace of God. Chapter seven will also tell us about the vast number of martyrs that are in heave, and that is the grace of God. The grace of God always functions in the midst of judgment. The prophet Jeremiah focuses our attention on that in his meditation on God's faithfulness in Lamentations chapter three. Even in the midst of destruction he is reminded of the grace of God. Lamentations 3:20 NASB "Surely my soul remembers And is bowed down within me [It drives him to a submission to God's authority]. [21] This I recall to my mind [remembrance of what he has learned from the Word of God], Therefore I have hope." Hope in the Bible is not wistful optimism; it is the conviction of something happening with certainty; confidence of what will take place. [22] "The LORD'S lovingkindnesses [chesed] indeed never cease, For His compassions [the outworking of His mercy in our lives] never fail. [23] {They} are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. [24] 'The LORD is my portion,' says my soul, 'Therefore I have hope in Him.'"

This is the thinking of every believer in the Lord Jesus Christ who understands his salvation. We have nothing to fear in life. We can rest upon the eternal rock of our salvation and we are confident of His deliverance. No matter what happens He is the one who can save us. As Job said, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust him." In Revelation, even though there is tremendous judgment from God there is also the extension of His grace and the continual offer of salvation. 

Illustrations