Praise God for his final judgment
I preached the following sermon at Grace Fellowship Church on Sunday, March 13, 2022.
After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,
“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
Once more they cried out,
“Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”
And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And from the throne came a voice saying,
“Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.”
Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,
“Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.” (Revelation 19:1-6)
If I were to imagine Revelation 18 and 19 as a movie, chapter 18 would be like coming to the dramatic climax when the tension is at its greatest. The earth is made bright with the glory of an angel just before the city of Babylon with all of her wickedness is plagued with death and mourning and famine and burned up with fire (Rev 18:1, 8). Those who gained wealth from her are standing far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud (Rev 18:15). They stand helpless as they watch the smoke rise from their once-great city (Rev 18:18). They cry out, “In a single hour she has been laid waste” (Rev 18:19).
As we watch the scene unfold, there’s a tremendous amount of noise. People are screaming. City walls are collapsing. But then, a mighty angel takes up the city and throws it into the sea, and as it sinks, all goes quiet (Rev 18:21). There’s not a sound to be heard. All we see on the screen are some faint ripples on the surface of the water.
A moment later, however, we begin to hear a faint, muffled roar in the distance. The camera slowly pans upward and moves through the clouds until we reach heaven. Suddenly, we see a great multitude of people, singing and shouting:
“Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.” (Revelation 19:1, 2)
“Hallelujah!” they cry, “Hallelujah!” (Rev 19:3, 6).
That’s the scene unfolding in this part of Revelation, and we need to watch the scene play out before we attempt to examine the various pieces of it. It’s been said that Revelation is a picture book, not a puzzle book. We need to absorb the drama of it. We need to see the story. The details can be studied and better understood, of course, but the story itself comes first. That’s the nature of this type of biblical literature. It’s more like a movie than a textbook.
With that in mind, let’s work our way through the passage here in Revelation 19.
Praise God for his justice
After this—after the fall of Babylon—John heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven (Rev 19:1). According to Revelation 7, this is a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages (Rev 7:9). People from all walks of life are represented here. Though that thought perplexed the Lord’s first disciples, God’s redemptive power reached far beyond the borders of Israel. The gospel found a home in every nation, tribe, people group, and language.
There is a great multitude in heaven, and when John sees them following the collapse of Babylon, they are shouting, “Hallelujah!” (Rev 19:1).
I love that word. It’s one of the most universal words in the world. It’s a word so remarkable that our English Bibles don’t even bother to translate it. They transliterate it, which means they just bring it over from the original Hebrew. And what does it mean? Hallel means praise. Yah is short for Yahweh, the proper name of God. Hallelujah, then, means “Praise Yahweh,” or “Praise the Lord” (Rev 19:1).
Interestingly enough, as universal and remarkable as this word is, Revelation 19 is the only place in the New Testament you will find it, and here it is used four times. It is used only twenty-four times in the Old Testament, and every appearance is in the Psalms. In fact, the last psalm ends with hallelujah. Let everything that has breath praise the LORD! Praise the LORD! (Ps 150:6).
So, what we have here in Revelation 19 is yet another hallel psalm, a song of praise for the Lord. It’s Psalm 151, if you will. But there’s something that may strike us as unusual about this particular song of praise. It praises God, of course, but it praises God specifically for his judgment of the great prostitute, Babylon (Rev 19:2). “Hallelujah! For he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality. Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever” (Rev 19:1-3).
We may not sing about God’s final judgment too often, but it is a perfectly legitimate reason to praise God. To be clear, we don’t praise him because we relish the prospect of the destruction of sinners. Even God has said, “I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked” (Eze 33:11). He would rather the wicked turn from his way and live, but if the sinner refuses, justice will be accomplished and the punishment will be appropriate. Sinners will be judged along with Babylon, to whom they gave their allegiance.
While we are more likely to praise God for his mercy and grace, as we should, it is no less appropriate to praise him for his justice.
Praise God for salvation
Listen again to this song. Notice all of the reasons the saints in heaven give for praising God. I’ve already mention the first, which is that justice will prevail. Second, there is salvation (Rev 19:1). Salvation cannot be accomplished apart from the destruction of wickedness.
Think of the flood in Noah’s day. Peter says, “Eight persons were brought safely through water” (1Pe 3:20). Some translations are even clearer. They say Noah and his family were saved through or by the floodwaters. In other words, they were not saved from the water by the ark. Instead, they were saved by the water. From what were they saved? The book of Genesis says, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Ge 6:5).
The flood saved Noah and his family from the rampant evil that prevailed in the world during that time. God saved them by eliminating the evil. He physically and forcibly removed the evil from the earth.
That is a sample of what he will do again at the end of time. He will take every last bit of wickedness and destroy it once and for all. Hallelujah! Praise God!
The older I get, the more I find myself meditating on a passage in Romans 8. The apostle Paul writes:
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:18-23)
I don’t know about you, but I can certainly relate to the kind of groaning Paul describes in that passage. Even on the best days of my life, I still get tired. I stub my toe. I get a headache. I catch a cold. The baby’s crying. I lose my keys. I’m late to work. When my family and I finally have an opportunity to get away from it all and take a vacation, I get sunburned while lying on the beach. And on and on it goes.
Making matters worse, I quietly observe the world around me. I read the reports of our brothers and sisters in Christ suffering in other places. I read the headlines coming out of our own nation. Rioters are looting and burning down cities in the name of so-called justice. Meanwhile, the people we’ve entrusted to lead our country and our communities turn a blind eye. In some cases, they applaud and encourage the lawlessness.
Men are pretending to be women. Women are pretending to be men. And where are the psychiatric professionals whose vocation it is to help people with mental and emotional disorders? Many of them are busy wagging their fingers at anyone who dares affirm biological reality.
I can’t buy a gallon of milk or a new shirt without walking into a store that is at least partially decorated with rainbows in blatant defiance of God and his promise to never again destroy the earth with a flood. Why do they display the rainbow? Without the faintest hint of irony, they are celebrating the kind of gross, unnatural sin that deserves the horrors of a worldwide flood.
The media is constantly screaming, “Follow the science! Follow the science!” I’d love to. Would you please tell me what your science says about the beginning of human life? When does life begin? Oh, you claim science hasn’t figured that out yet. Why, then, do you continue to endorse the slaughter of millions of unborn children each year?
I could go on, but I suppose you understand my point. I long to be free from this world in its present condition. I long to be free from tyranny, corruption, profanity, violence, persecution, injustice, materialism, unthankfulness, godlessness, suffering, sorrow, and death. I groan inwardly, anxiously anticipating the day when God will bring a complete end to all of it (Ro 8:23). He will save us from it not for a season, but for all eternity.
Babylon will fall because God will judge the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality (Rev 19:2). And the saints will shout, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God” (Rev 19:1). We will be free as we watch the smoke from the harlot go up forever and ever (Rev 19:3). In other words, we will never forget from what God has saved us.
Praise God for his glory and power
The third reason the great multitude in heaven praises God is for his glory and power (Rev 19:1).
In the Hebrew mind, glory conveyed the idea that there is a weightiness to God (Rev 19:1). The matter of God and his person are no small things. Sadly, however, to those seduced by Babylon, God is a light matter that we can neglect or disregard without any consequences. His power is irrelevant if he has any power at all.
The truth is, of course, there is coming a day when every knee shall bow to God, and every tongue shall confess to him (Ro 14:11). The entire world will see his glory, recognize his undeniable weightiness, and behold his power. And when that day comes, the saints will shout with joy, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God” (Rev 19:1). Amen.
Redeemed for something more
If you’re still troubled at the thought of celebrating the destruction of wickedness and, consequently, the wicked, turn your eyes to the God of our salvation (Rev 19:1). See his glory. See his power. Aren’t his judgments true and just? (Rev 19:2). Doesn’t the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality deserve the fate she received? Hasn’t God finally avenged on her the blood of his servants? She was an unrelenting temptress with a mission to draw the saints away from God. When she could not entice them to sin, she simply killed them. Praise be to God. Our Lord has saved us from her. Just look. The smoke from her goes up forever and ever (Rev 19:3).
Skipping down to verse 6, the multitude in heaven cries out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.” (Rev 19:6)
To be clear, there has never been a time when our God was not reigning as the Almighty Lord, but this is a moment when the entire world sees it (Rev 19:6). Today, the nations may rage and the rulers may take counsel together against the LORD, but when we reach this moment described in Revelation 19, even those nations and rulers, who once worked against God and people, will be stopped (Ps 2:1, 2). According to Psalm 2, he who sits in the heavens laughs at their vain attempts to plot against him (Ps 2:4).
Again, the church shouts, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns” (Rev 19:6). Make no mistake. No one is higher or more powerful than our God.
The saints have waited so long for this moment. They have suffered so much. They have longed for this day. They have finally reached the consummation of everything God has been doing from the beginning.
God began promising this day shortly after our fall into sin. He continued to prophesy it generation after generation. Eventually, we saw the long-anticipated Messiah come to this earth. We watched his ministry. We heard his teachings. Then, we witnessed his death and resurrection. Some of the first disciples stared into the sky as Jesus ascended into heaven. Then, the wait continued.
Even as early as the first century, some believers grew nervous. Where is Christ? Is he still coming? Have we missed his return? “Do not overlook this one fact,” Peter wrote, “that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness” (2Pe 3:8, 9). He goes on to write:
The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.
Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God. (2 Peter 3:10-12)
I pray we haven’t lost sight of this day—the day of God (2Pe 3:12).
I will confess there are times when I feel overwhelmed by the world around me. I’m burdened by the sin and godlessness of popular culture. I’m worried about my children’s future in a nation that may very well be experiencing the judgment of God as we speak. I wonder how bad he’ll allow things to get, and these thoughts leave me feeling anxious, afraid, and sometimes angry. I want to march in the streets and take back this country. I want to see some semblance of righteousness again.
But then, I look to Christ, and he reminds me that I won’t be here that long. He reminds me that my children won’t be here that long. He reminds me that I have good reason to feel a level of dissatisfaction in a fallen world that has rejected him. He reminds me that he did not die in my place so that I could be satisfied in a fallen world.
Christ has redeemed us for something more. We don’t hope for humanity to finally get its act together and engineer a utopia on earth. No, we hope for the coming Christ, who says, “Behold, I am making all things new” (Rev 21:5). Only Christ can accomplish that perfect world most of us long for in the pit of our stomachs. Only Christ can bring an end to Babylon the harlot and all of her wicked influence.
The promise, of course, is that he will.