The Majesty of God (part three)
May 20, 2018
Sermon Series: Isaiah: Judgment & Hope
Scripture Reading: Revelation 21:1-8
Sermon Title: The Majesty of God (part three)
Memory Verse: And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true” (Revelation 21:5)
NOTE: “Scripture quotations are from the NASB." This manuscript is provided as a courtesy and is not intended for publication. The recorded audio/video message differs from the manuscript. Thanks for understanding.
The final destination of all people is either the place of good, which is heaven, or the place of evil, which is hell. The Bible talks about heaven and hell as kingdoms.
In the Beatitudes, Jesus says that those who are blessed, receive the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:3-20). We are to pray for God’s kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10) and to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33). Paul says that we are rescued from the domain of darkness and transferred to the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (Colossians 1:13).
There is another word the Bible uses to describe the outcome of men is the word city. We see the use of the word city most prominent in John’s Revelation. John speaks of two cities, Babylon and the New Jerusalem. In his vision, the evil city of Babylon is destroyed (Revelation 18:21) and “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2).
It is helpful for us to have familiarity with what John says about the two cities in the book of Revelation because it helps to understand what Isaiah is saying in chapters 13-27. The end of the book of Revelation may be considered a parallel passage to these chapters in Isaiah. Both prophets describe the same event.
Some of what Isaiah prophecies is specific to his age and it takes place during the time of Isaiah (before Jesus is born). But, some of what Isaiah writes is describing the same end-of-the-world events described in Revelation chapters 17-22 (double prophecy).
When Isaiah speaks of the judgment of the nations and their destruction, he is talking about the same thing John speaks about in Revelation as the judgment of the city of Babylon. And, when Isaiah speaks of establishing God’s city on Mount Zion, he is talking about the same thing John speaks about in Revelation when he describes the New Jerusalem.
So, on one hand, in Isaiah, we have the judgment of the nations which is the same as God judging the evil city Babylon in Revelation. And, we have the establishment of a city upon Mount Zion in Isaiah which is the same as God establishing the New Jerusalem in Revelation.
The City of Babylon
John wrote this in the book of Revelation: “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who has made all the nations drink of the wine of the passion of her immorality.” (Revelation 14:8)
We spoke of how Isaiah writes about the inhabitants of the city of Babylon last week (read or listen here). The city is the domain of darkness. The ruler is the spirit who works in the sons of disobedience (Eph. 2:2).
Isaiah tells us that in Babylon, people are free of God. There is no regard for His rule. People do what they believe to be right in their own eyes. They are full of conceit and arrogance. The city has one law, do evil, but be smart enough to not get caught.
The people love the way of life in Babylon. The general attitude is, let’s be gluttons and drunkards and eat and drink for tomorrow we die. Have a great time living large.
Kindness and graciousness is uncommon. Most people are only nice to others if there is something to gain. Murder, arguing, anger, fighting, rivalries, and war are commonplace.
Love is perverted in Babylon. Women are bought and sold. Parents are dishonored. Marriages are impure. Instead of pure love, there is all kinds of immorality, defilement, and lewdness. Speech is not gentle or encouraging. Instead, there is coarse jesting, rudeness, deceit, slander, and gossip.
If someone is your slave, and they are of another culture, language, or different color skin, it is completely permissible to be a ruthless oppressor and a harsh master who whips without mercy. They see no need to have compassion for the widows or orphans. If the less-fortunate need money, they should work. It’s called, taking care of number one!
The inhabitants of the city of Babylon pride themselves in the work of their hands. They build fleets of mighty sailing vessels to rule the seas and establish colonies for trade. They use their hands to cultivate fields for harvest.
The greed knows no end. Luxury fills the rooms of their palaces. They are aggressive in their industrial endeavors and they are willing to be frauds, cheats, thieves, or corrupt if it will bring a profit.
The rulers and politicians in Babylon believe themselves to be safe and secure from their enemies. They enjoy enormous success from their blood-thirsty conquests. They enjoy running over the weak and confiscating the spoils of war. They believe Babylon to be invincible because of the strong towers and mighty armies.
The God of Israel looks down upon the city of Babylon. He sees that the inhabitants are polluting the land. God made the city good, but they spoil the land with greed, immorality, injustice, and rebellion. They are a godless people. God waters their crops, and they don’t say thank-you. God writes His law on their hearts and they blatantly ignore His laws and do as they please. They worship idols made with the ir hands rather than worship God. They have no fear of God’s judgment or wrath. In their feeble minds, God does not exist, or if He does, He is powerless against their cunning and might.
What the people do not know is that they are not the rulers of the city of Babylon. They have no right to ignore the Creator and Lord of the Universe. There is a day of reckoning on the horizon and the Bible calls it the Day of the Lord. Complete destruction awaits.
A Champion is Sent
God is glorious and majestic. God will not allow rebellion. He will have His day. God raises up a prophet to proclaim God’s justice and His offer of mercy. Isaiah tells of how God will put an end to the rebellion.
God reveals to Isaiah that He will send a Messiah. He will be of the seed of David; the root of Jesse. The Messiah will sit on David’s throne and establish a kingdom of swift justice and perfect righteousness. God tells Isaiah that the Son is a Champion.
Let’s leave the book of Isaiah for a moment and imagine what takes place in heaven. We know what happens.
God the Father beckons to His Son. The angels in heaven shudder as the Son stands at God’s right hand. They know the immense power of the Son. The Son is the Captain, and they are the army of heaven. If the Son is beckoned to the throne, they will surely receive orders as well. The heavenly hosts stand in the ready. They expect the Son will lead them into battle. They know that it is He who rides the white horse. From the mouth of the Son comes a sharp sword able to strike down the nations. The Son is God’s right hand who rules with a rod of iron. Nothing may stand in the way of the Son.
The heavenly army knows that great judgment and destruction is coming to the city for the Son treads the wine press of the fierce wrath of God, the Almighty. The heavenly hosts begin to mount up and prepare to ride into Babylon. The Son will lead the hosts of angels to destroy evil. But, the Son looks at the heavenly army and says, “Not yet. Wait. Soon enough.” They heavenly host stand down in obedience. They watch with eyes full of wonder.
To the surprise of the heavenly host, the Son does not ride as a conqueror into Babylon. He sets aside His privileges and becomes a citizen among men. While living in Babylon, the Son is unlike the inhabitants. They speak of hate, but He speaks of love. They ask to be served, but the Son seeks to serve others.
When their mouths are filled with vile and cursing, His speech is pure. They are filled with lies and deceit, and He is filled with truth and righteousness. He does not seek the accommodation of a palace. His purse is empty, and He has no place to call home. He accumulates no wealth. Instead of thinking only of Himself, He pours out His attention on the downcast, poor, and weak. He doesn’t outcast the leper, but He heals them. When He eats, His eyes gaze upward to thank the Creator for His provision. He does not ignore or disobey God, but He lives to bring God glory. He is the antithesis of the inhabitants of Babylon.
It is only a matter of time before the Son will clash with the citizens of Babylon. They are godless, and He is full of the fear of the Lord. His ways are not acceptable. He is upsetting the apple-cart. He is opposing the status-quo. He does not belong, and He must be stopped.
The leaders devise a plan. Their plan is the same plan as always. They’ve heard men speak like the Son in the past, and they will do the same to Him as they have to all the prophets of God who came before Him. They will kill Him.
A wooden cross is erected outside the gates of Babylon. A crown of thorns and nails are made ready. The heavenly angels watch in amazement. They begin to get ready. Now will be the time they say to one another. The Son will call us, and this injustice will be put to an end.
But, the Son does not call upon the awaiting army, but instead willingly allows Himself to be unmercifully beaten, He wears the crown of thorns, and is nailed to the cross.
An amazing, indescribable transaction takes place. With the Son on the cross, an irresistible wave of love sweeps across Babylon. The wave of love is God the Father reaching into Babylon and removing the blinders off a few chosen inhabitants of Babylon. Their eyes are struck by the light. They are overcome by the love.
What they see as they look upon the cross is the glory of God in the face of the Son. They see in the atoning blood sacrifice forgiveness and mercy. They see the Son standing in-between them and the wrath of God. The Son is taking the cup of God’s wrath and drinking it to the dregs.
The elect hear a voice call out and their ears are open to hearing the prophet Isaiah speak on God’s behalf:
- "Come now, and let us reason together," says the LORD, "Though your sins are as scarlet, They will be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They will be like wool. If you consent and obey, You will eat the best of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword.” (Isaiah 1:18-20)
God’s chosen ones believe that through Isaiah, the mouth of the LORD has spoken. The fear of the Lord fills their hearts. They choose to repent and obey. The blood of the Son cleanses them, and their sins are cast away as far as the east is from the west. Iniquity is forgiven and the full price of the pardoning of sin is paid (Isaiah 27:9).
While the chosen look at the Messiah and worship, the rest of Babylon continue to mock and despise the Son. They remain arrogant and proud. They have no fear of God. The offer of forgiveness and mercy hits their stony heart without penetration.
The Son dies on the cross. His mission for now is complete. His life and death prove to be pleasing to the God of Israel. After three days, God raises His Son from the grave. He is now alive forevermore. The Son’s resurrection is evidence of His power over sin and the grave. The Father gives the Son authority over all things.
The Son does not stay in Babylon. Before leaving, He promises those who put their faith in Him that He will build a beautiful city. He tells them to look to the east for His return. He will come back to destroy Babylon and rescue God’s people and bring them to a new city, the New Jerusalem. As a pledge of His faithfulness, the Son sends His Spirit to forever dwell in the hearts of God’s elect.
The Son ascends into heaven and takes His place at the right hand of the Father. While there, the Son is an intercessor for those the Father chooses to receive the inheritance of the New Jerusalem.
The Destruction of Babylon
The Son came once to Babylon, and the Son will return. To know of His return, we may listen to the words of Isaiah in chapters 13-27.
With the Son’s second coming, He brings the armies of angels in heaven. They will participate in the destruction of the City of Babylon. The day of the Lord arrives.
The destruction of Babylon will be swift, just, and thorough. The strong towers and fortresses will be destroyed forever. The fields and harvests will be taken away. Palaces will be emptied. Rivers will run dry. The songs of gaiety will no longer be sung. Altars to the false gods will be torn down. The sun, moon, and the stars will no longer shine. Men will fight against men. Brother against brother. All will perish. Bloodshed will cover the city.
Isaiah reveals that the judgment is not only for men, but the Lord will punish the rebellious heavenly hosts. The Messiah will punish the serpent using His fierce and great and mighty sword. The fallen angels will be cast into a dungeon and punished for eternity. (Isaiah 24:21-23; 27:1; Rev. 20:2).
This is not a time for the saints to rejoice. In telling of the extermination of the sinners of Babylon, Isaiah cries out, “Therefore I say, ‘Turn your eyes away from me, let me weep bitterly, do not try to comfort me concerning the destruction of the daughter of my people.’” (Isaiah 22:4)
John tells us, “When the Lamb broke the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.” (Revelation 8:1) The silence represents the imposing and terrible severity of what is about to be revealed.
Before we talk of the Saints of God being taken by Christ to the New Jerusalem, let’s ponder for a moment upon the destruction of Babylon.
None of us deserves to escape Babylon. None of us has lived a holy life and worthy to escape God’s wrath. We may not tell God’s angels who carry out His wrath, “Put away your sword. You have the wrong guy. I am not guilty. I have never been a rebel to God. I have lived a life of perfect obedience.” Which one of us may read the words speaking about the destruction of Babylon and rejoice?
We need to see the judgment of the world like this. We had a seat on their plane, and at the last moment, Jesus walks up and says, I will sit in your seat. Take this ticket for My private jet. We see the plane we were supposed to be on crash. We look at the wreckage and say, that was supposed to be me. There is only one reason I am not among dead in this awful is because Jesus willingly took my place.
The Unveiling of the New Jerusalem
Escaping the wrath of God is glorious. Not receiving the punishment, we deserve is called mercy.
But, what is even more glorious than mercy is grace. Not only do we escape the destruction of Babylon, but we are made citizens and heirs of the New Jerusalem.
“A great trumpet will be blown” and the remnant will come and worship the Lord at the New Jerusalem on Mount Zion (Isaiah 14:32; Isaiah 18:7; 27:13).
It will be a great party. We will bask in the unfathomable riches of Christ.
There will be a great resurrection (to my understanding, this is the only explicit mention of the resurrection in the Old Testament).
- Your dead will live; Their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, For your dew is as the dew of the dawn, and the earth will give birth to the departed spirits. (Isaiah 26:19)
Also with the resurrection, we are given eternal life because death is destroyed.
- “And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, Even the veil which is stretched over all nations. He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 25:7-8)
A highway will be made and people from all over the world will gather to worship the God of Israel (Isaiah 19:23-25).
- The Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; a banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine. (Isaiah 25:6)
We will be cared for. The Lord will watch over us. We will be the vineyard of wine and He will be our keeper. Isaiah writes how God will water His vineyard and will guard it night and day. He will not allow briars or thorns to take root, but will burn them completely. The vineyard of the Lord will take root, blossom, and sprout, and it will fill the whole world with fruit. (Isaiah 27:2-6)
Because the Lord cares for us, there will be none who suffer.
- “Those who are most helpless will eat, and the needy will lie down in security …” (Isaiah 14:30)
We will be without sin. Those who worship God in the gates of the city will be forgiven of all their iniquity. The full price for the pardoning of sin is made. (Isaiah 27:9).
We will have eternal rest.
- “And it will be in the day when the Lord gives you rest from your pain and turmoil and harsh service in which you have been enslaved” (Isaiah 14:3).
How should we respond?
1) Shout for joy and give God the glory
We are saved to the uttermost because of the glory of God’s grace.
- They raise their voices, they shout for joy; They cry out from the west concerning the majesty of the Lord. Therefore glorify the Lord in the east, The name of the Lord, the God of Israel, In the coastlands of the sea. (Isaiah 24:14-15)
2) Persevere in faith
For those who are in Christ, there is hope. Life has challenges. We face trials and tribulations. But, we are to persevere in the faith. Our faith is not in our present circumstances, but in our future.
- And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true” (Revelation 21:5)
In the book of Hebrews, the writer tells commends to us that we are to be like Abraham. He is a man of faith because his hope is in God. Abraham left his home and went to a place where he was to receive an inheritance. The Bible says Abraham was looking for a city whose architect and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10). After speaking of Abraham, the same chapter says God prepares a city for all those who have faith in Him (Hebrews 11:16).
As we journey through this life, keep your eyes to the east for the second coming of our Savior, Champion, and Deliverer. These words are faithful and true.