As the final seven-year period draws to an end persecution of believers will reach unprecedented levels. Not only will people be killed for their faith, but false religious leaders will perform amazing miracles in order to convince people to worship the antichrist. At the same time God will have begun judging the earth for murdering His followers. Natural catastrophes will shake the planet. Severe global warming, drought, a plague of ulcerous sores (melanoma?), an atmosphere so polluted daylight will grow dark. And though people will realize God is the One causing these troubles, hearts will have grown so hard by this point that most will readily blaspheme Him rather than repent. Right in the middle of these terrible visions John hears Jesus speak. With a few simple statements He encourages His church to remain faithful even when everything around seems to be going wrong. Though there will be a final generation who will desperately need to hear these words, so do we who live in this generation. We (in America) may not face the same degree of opposition but the same enemy opposes our faith. We too must stay awake and keep our clothes because Jesus is coming like a thief. Lets discover what this means and how to do it.
A. Overview of Chapters 15, 16
1) Remember: seals (release of evil), trumpets (warning of judgment), bowls (beginning of judgment)
2) 15:3 song of Moses: last days believers who are now beyond the reach of their oppressor
3) Bowl judgments:
(v 2) Ulcerous sores on skin
(v 3) Animals die in ocean: red algae; hot, stagnant
(vs 4-7) fresh water sources turn red
- Prophetic symbolism: blood for blood
- Ge 4:10 Ables blood cries out: the blood of the martyrs cries out for justice
(vs 8, 9) scorching heat: Global warming; Anger toward God, not repentance
- Suffering in the dark; A taste of hell (while there is still time to repent)
(vs 12, 16) Euphrates dries up
- Northern border of the land promised to Abraham (Ge 15:18)
- Severe drought
- As the Jordan River stopped to allow Israel to enter the land to conquer it, God dries the Euphrates to let invading armies come in, not so they can conquer, but to draw them to the winepress (Rev 14:20; 16:21)
- Demonic signs help draw suffering armies together for a multinational assault on Israel
- Har-Magedon: staging area, the primary assault will be against Jerusalem (Zec 12:2-11; 14:1-5; Joel 3:9-17)
(vs 17-21) Massive earthquake and hailstorm
- Jerusalem split into three parts; Earth crust shifted?
B. Jesus warns His church (Rev 16:15)
Dont let the passing of time, the temptation of life or the hardships of persecution cause you to be unprepared to meet me.
1) Like a thief: The physical return of Jesus Christ will be sudden and unexpected so a person must stay constantly ready. I cant get my spiritual life in order just before He comes back.
- Mt 24:36-39; 42-50; Lk 12:35-40 Be dressed in readiness
- Being Jesus disciple is a lifestyle not a last-minute crisis event (though some receive Christ in the last-moments before their death)
- Disciples should discipline their lives so they are always ready to meet Him and are full of faith when they die
2) Stay awake: Its my responsibility to repeatedly refresh my faith so it stays alive over a lifetime.
Decisions only I can make: Do I believe in Jesus? Do I exist after I die? Do the choices I make here affect what will happen to me beyond the grave? Will I make eternal life a priority?
Deciding it is urgent that I stay awake
Accepting the fact that it is my responsibility to stay awake
- Confusing doctrines: I cant lose my salvation (Calvinism); Its entirely up to God to keep me. I have no part to play (passivity, fatalism). (What part does God play? See: Ro 8:31-39).
Steps I must take: (negatives)
- Avoiding addictive sin; avoiding the grip of greed and wealth; avoiding false doctrine; avoiding harboring offense; avoiding the accumulation of guilt; avoiding a cold heart towards God; avoiding fruitlessness
Steps I must take: (positives)
- Deliberately breaking addictive habits through: deliverance; confession; prayer; removal of opportunity
- Deliberately breaking the lure of wealth by: tithing, giving above & beyond; living simply; honest financial practices; regular worship
- Deliberately reading the Bible rather than only listening to human teachers
- Deliberately seeking reconciliation and letting love protect me from offense (1Co 13)
- Deliberately confessing sins to God and others (James 5:16). Receiving Jesus cleaning work over and over again: communion; LTG; confessing to a pastor
- Deliberately refreshing my love for God: daily prayer; worship; acknowledging Him in all my ways
- Deliberately scheduling time to serve the Lord: serving in church; mission teams; praying for unbelievers; living as a witness in the world
3) Keep clothed: Ill never abandon my faith in the cross of Jesus Christ. I will never doubt the power of His blood to cleanse me nor His willingness to forgive me if I will repent.
I am clothed with His righteousness so my sins and shame cannot be seen (Prodigal Son, Lk 15:11-32)
- I will not give up because of frustration with my own ability to stop sinning. (How could He still love me or forgive me?)
- I will not let someone teach me a different gospel that causes me to stop trusting the righteousness of faith (Php 3:9)
- I will not abandon Jesus in order to escape being persecuted with Him
Though I am responsible to choose rightly I will never forget that only He has the power to protect and preserve me. So I will run back to His arms again and again!
1) Name some of the regular steps you take to refresh your faith. 2) What are the warning signs in yourself that tell you you are falling asleep spiritually?
3) Review the above steps (avoid. . . deliberately. . .). Mention one that applies to you now.