Angels and Divine Integrity – Part 2
Revelation Lesson #023
October 24, 2004
“This is the record that God has given us eternal life and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has the life. He who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” “He who believes in Him is not condemned, but He who believeth not is condemned already because he had not believed in the Name of the only begotten Son of God.” “For there is no other Name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.” “For by Grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.” “For I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, the things present, the things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing is able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things to Whom be the glory forever and ever, amen.”
Before we begin our study this morning let’s make sure we are in fellowship, We’ll have a few moments of silent prayer to give you the opportunity to make sure that you are filled with the Spirit, ready to focus and concentrate on the teaching of God’s Word. Let’s pray.
Father, You are the God of history. You are the God Who from eternity past has declared the end from the beginning. You are the God Who is working out Your purposes in human history in order to vindicate Your integrity, in order to demonstrate Your love, Your justice, Your righteousness, Your grace; and Father it is in our understand of Your purposes in human history that we see our own role; that we see how we fit within the framework of the church and our witness as individual believers in that greater angelic conflict. Father, we thank you for the privilege we have to worship You as we see in this book of Revelation this worship and praise to You is fundamental to the role of the creature recognizing and giving honor to the Creator. Father, we pray that as we study Your Word this morning that You would help us to understand these things that we might gain a greater appreciation for Who You are, what You have done and our role within Your plan. Father, we pray that You would challenge us with the things that we study. We pray this in Christ’s Name. Amen.
I’ve already had a couple of questions this morning. I might as well address them. It also gets it out on tape on the internet about some of the things that are going on in the future. The last Sunday that we will be here will be November 14th and then we will be in the process of moving for three or four weeks, and I will show up in Houston, but I won’t begin to teach down there until about the 10th of December. They’ll be an installation service on the 10th of December, which is a Friday evening; and then I will also teach that Saturday and also Sunday evening. The new church down there is meeting in a Baptist church, so we don’t have our own facilities, so we can’t meet on Sunday morning because that is the only time they use their auditorium. The new church meets on Sunday night and once I get there it will be Sunday night and Tuesday night with Christmas and New Year's coming up so closely we decided to just go with two classes. I leave for Kiev on the 13th of January and we will be gone the last two weeks of January.
When I return the 1st of February then I will teach three times a week: Sunday night, Tuesday night, and Thursday night until we get our own facility, our own building. Dean Bible Ministries is moving to Houston. We have a new address that will be posted on the website. We will get it into the bulletin here so that you can order. You can go through the mail that way or through the website. There will continue to be a link from the Preston City Bible Church website to both West Houston Bible Church and Dean Bible Ministries for some time. There will be a gradual transition. Jeff and Lori are going to continue to put out cassettes from up here for at least the next five or six months. That will be a transition time before we get everything moved down south. They will still be doing that work up here.
We will probably go to a higher level of intensity with DVD. The Lord has provided through various means. I won’t go into it here, but He has provided some great equipment down there that surpasses what we have here. The hope is that they’ll be able to produce quality DVD in short order. They already have some equipment…. They are practicing. When I was down there in September they set up one camera and produced the DVD from the conference when I was there. So the next issue is going to be duplication and distribution once we start cranking a good quality DVD. So that is the plan and we’ll just see how the Lord provides.
Now we are going to continue with where I leave off here once I get down there. The group down there listens to Revelation and Genesis. They are about four weeks behind in Genesis and about eight weeks behind in Revelation. When I get down there I will probably have a couple of weeks of review and then we will be right back on track. We will continue with where I leave off here in another three or four weeks; having said that, we need to get back to our subject in Revelation.
Revelation 2:1 introduces us to a new section in this apocalypse, the Revelation. These two chapters deal with the subject of things that are; that is, what is going on in the Church Age. Now before we get into details on this, I’m still spending some time understanding what is happening in the structure of these short epistles addressed to the angel. I’ve gone through this several times and we are going to kind of wrap it up this morning, building a case for the fact that we must preserve the integrity of the term ANGELOS. That is fundamental. It is interesting; yesterday I got on the phone and had to talk to Charlie Clough about a couple of things. Everybody here knows Charlie. We were talking about this and that and the other thing that is coming up and there was something in the back of my mind and still is, that I needed to talk to him about or ask him about, and I couldn’t think of it and as I was closing out the conversation, after about 30 minutes or so, I said well, maybe it has something to do with the angels in Revelation. He said great, let’s talk about that. He said my pastor down there in Maryland had just started teaching Revelation and the pastor has a little training, not a lot of training; he knows a little Greek. But he wanted Charlie to read ahead in the Greek Text, translate through Revelation and kind of alert him to issues and things and sort of be a sounding board for him to talk with about issues in Revelation.
Charlie’s been translating through the verses and he’s up to about Revelation 5. He has been working through this and he said what in the world is going on with this angel in Revelation 2-3? Is that a literal angel or is that the pastor? What do you think? I went back through all my arguments and he said Robby, I think you’ve really nailed this because you’ve preserved the integrity of the term ANGELOS. See this is the bottom line. When you come along and you see a word, and as I pointed out before, if we have difficulty understanding why an angel would be included in the address of these epistles, these short notes; if we say, well I can’t understand why it would be written to an angel, therefore it must not be an angel. We have begun with a methodological flaw and that is because we can’t quite comprehend why a word would be used a certain way we automatically and too quickly jump to the conclusion that it must not mean what it means everywhere else in the book.
Sixty seven times in the book of Revelation we have this word ANGELOS. Seven times in Revelation 2-3 to the angel of these churches, and then once in Revelation 1:20, where we read that the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches. So aside from those eight uses the other 59 uses in the book of Revelation all refer to the supernatural order of created beings that we find in God’s creation that refer to His angels. But that still leaves us with the question what is going on here? Why did the angels get this information? In fact that was a good thing in the conversation with Charlie yesterday. I had been looking around for a particular verse and hadn’t come up with it and he said well that fits exactly with what happens in Deuteronomy 32:1. I said that’s the verse I’ve been trying to get to. It is the principle of iron sharpens iron.
Let’s have a little review. What we’ve seen so far is the word ANGELOS. The Greek word ANGELOS, which is the word that is translated “angel”, is a word from standard Greek usage that means “messenger” ANGELOS. The basic meaning is “messenger” from the Hebrew mal’awk, also meaning messenger, which indicates something about the essential role of the angels in terms of carrying out missions given to them by God. They are not just created for the simple purpose of sitting around in heaven praising God. But they were given roles to perform and what we see is God created them before He created the universe. Job 38:4-7 says that the “sons of God”, which is a technical term for angels, “all the sons of God” shouted for joy when God laid the foundation of the earth. So this tells us that they were created before the earth was created and they had a role in the pre-Genesis 1:1 universe. What that was we are not told, but we are told that at some point after the creation of the universe and before the events of Genesis 1:2 through the end of the chapter that the highest of the angels named Lucifer, whom we call Lucifer, fell into arrogance, lusted after the power and authority of God and enticed one-third of the angels to follow him in a rebellion against God.
So at some time in eternity past you have this angelic revolt that breaks out and we don’t know how long it lasted between the time that sin was discovered in Lucifer to the time that God holds a trial, but apparently God holds a trial because in Matthew 25:41 we are told by Jesus in a statement about that the Lake of Fire was created for the devil and his angels. It has already been created. It is determined that the devil and his angels are destined for the Lake of Fire. That is their punishment. That has been a decree from the justice of God from the Supreme Court of Heaven that the devil and his angels would be confined to this punishment of eternity in the Lake of Fire. Well the question then is, if God has created the Lake of Fire and God has already determined that that is their destiny, that is their judicial sentence, why then has this been postponed? Why aren’t they there now? What is going on? They are not even cast out of heaven yet. We don’t see the devil and his angels evicted from heaven until the midpoint of the Tribulation. They still have access to heaven. Job 1 pictures this convocation, this assembly of all the sons of God, which includes both the devil and his angels and the demons, and it also includes the holy angels, the elect angels. They still have access to heaven.
The question is what going on here? The answer is that God is demonstrating certain things about His integrity, about His justice, His righteousness, His love and His grace. He is demonstrating certain things through the experiment of the human race so that the entirety of human history is a demonstration of the integrity, the righteousness and justice, of God. What does this do? This is so important for us to focus our thinking on reality because what we are describing here is how to understand the whole purpose and structure of human history; and within that is your life and my life as members of the church. What is God doing here as a church? Because what we are seeing here in these seven letters to the seven churches is that there is an evaluation process that is coming from the Supreme Court of Heaven related to each corporate entity of a local church. These are directed to corporate local churches, so it is not just the church at Smyrna, the church of Thyatira, the church of Ephesus, but it is the church of Preston City, West Houston Bible Church, and North Stonington Bible Church. Each congregation has accountability within the framework of the angelic conflict. It is not just you as an individual believer.
This takes us back to a principle I kept emphasizing again and again and again when we went through 1 Corinthians 12:13-14, the context of spiritual gifts. It is that the body of Christ is important. It is not just you as an individual believer in your spiritual life. That is important. But in the Bible you also have this emphasis on corporate life of the local church. Jesus Christ instituted the local church. He didn’t just institute individual believers as members of the church. In 1 Corinthians 12 it talks about the fact that we are members of one another. This flies in the face of a lot of people, especially in America, the emphasis on “rugged individualism” and personal responsibility. That’s there, but there’s this other factor and that is a corporate reality that we are members of one another. We are to pray for one another, teach one another, encourage one another, and admonish one another. This is the life of the congregation.
What we see in Revelation 2-3 is that there is an evaluation of the corporate life of a local church. This isn’t talking about the individuals; it is talking about the evaluation statement of a local congregation. There is an evaluation for individual believers, but there is also an evaluation for them within the framework of a local church entity; and within this context what we see is that the angels are observing us. We’ve seen several passages that emphasize that. Angels are observing us as confirmatory witnesses, as legal witnesses of how God interacts with His creatures in human history within the framework of this overall trial in heaven. So what happens is that you have the fall of Satan in eternity past and there is an appeal. God says, okay, I am going to demonstrate My justice. I am going to demonstrate My integrity. In other words, that I am completely fair, honest, and correct in My procedures of sentencing you and your followers to an eternity in a horrendous death in the Lake of Fire. I am going to demonstrate the consequences of what you have done in rebelling against Me; that it is not just the very fact of rebellion, but it rips the fabric of the universe in such a way that it introduces untold, unforeseen suffering consequences throughout eternity.
1. The challenge is to the integrity of God, which includes His righteousness, which is the standard of God’s character.
2, It includes His justice, which is the application of that standard.
3. It includes His love, which is the foundation of His relationship to His creatures, all of which is expressed in grace.
Satan is challenging that by saying God, you are just not giving us a fair shake. You’re not giving me an opportunity to show what I can do. I can run things better than you can and the creature can become the Creator. It sounds like the same lie he told Eve in the Garden: you can be like God. See that is what he wanted to be. So this sets the framework. Now notice, you’ve got righteousness and justice that is foundational to divine integrity, so we are looking at a scenario that relates to legality. This is the framework for understanding all of history. What comes out of this legal structure; that there is this appeal trial?
1. Let’s look at what the Scriptures emphasize. From the very beginning we see that there is an emphasis on covenant. We talked about this briefly in the first hour in relation to Scripture, but a covenant is a legal document that puts certain obligations on the party of the first part and the party of the second part. What God does it that He enters into these legal contractual relationships with man because that is what a covenant is. It is a contract. Only the God of the Bible enters into a contract with the human race. You don’t find this with the god of Mormonism, with Allah, with any of the gods in the Hindu pantheon, any of the gods of the Greek pantheon; They don’t enter into a legal contractual relationship, which is verifiable. This emphasizes the trustworthiness of God. God is binding Himself to certain conditions. He is willing to do that because it is going to be a witness within this overall appeal trial; that God is faithful to those covenants, those legal stipulations that He outlines in His contracts with man.
2. In terms of salvation, salvation is frequently portrayed in terms of legal language. We have terms like imputation, justification, even the term forgiveness are all couched in Scripture within the framework of legal language. Even the idea of sin is often couched in legal language, failure to fulfill God’s law. We have in terms of the role of Satan, SATAN, as the name of Satan is the legal accuser. It is like a legal accuser in a courtroom. He is pictured like a prosecutor who is making a case against God’s people. Then we look at the picture of Jesus Christ, for example, in 1 John 2:1, He is our advocate. Once again we have this legal language. This is where people in our era really mess up because with the rise of the subjectivism that came out of the 19th century liberalism and with the rise of modern psychology, all of this, the emphasis is on how you feel.
I read a great editorial online this week by Michelle Malkin. I don’t know if you ever read Michelle Malkin, but she is a conservative writer, syndicated columnist, and she is comparing the women of this generation and the whining about the fact that they are having to send their husbands and their sons off to fight a war in Iraq, and not understanding the global war on terrorism versus the kind of self-sacrifice that was seen by the women in WWII. One of the lines she said is, well the women during the WWII generation, the Rosie the Riveter, never complained about not having enough “me” time. See, we live in an era when people are so self-absorbed and so focused on their own emotions and how they feel that that works itself out in all kinds of variations. It is destructive to marriage because you often hear complaints that happens on both sides, well, you know, this just isn’t right for “me”, or somehow I am not fulfilling “my” potential in this marriage. The way problems are couched is how it makes “me” feel right now. Everything is viewed in this kind of subjective relational framework and that is a keyword.
I remember one of my professors at seminary, I think it was in soteriology, was talking about how a big shift that had taken place in the history of Christianity. For example, in the Reformation when you talked about salvation, it was couched in terms of justification. What was Martin Luther’s cry but justification by faith alone? That was the issue for three centuries. It was justification by faith alone. Salvation was presented in terms of justification; that a person had to receive the righteousness of Christ in order to be justified, in order to be declared just before God, before the Supreme Court of Heaven. The issue was understanding this concept of legality. What do you find today? Do you want to make Jesus your friend? Invite Jesus into your heart? You need to have a relationship with God. The focus is all relational. The gospel is presented in terms of subjective, emotional, psychological verbiage. It’s what does Jesus do for “you”? How “you” can have a relationship with God; how you can experience the love of God in your life. All of this is subjective “me” oriented verbiage. It is the psychologizing and subjectivizing of the gospel. It presents it within a framework that appeals to human arrogance and self-absorption.
We loose this whole concept that is presented in the Bible of legality, and as a result of failure to meet the legal stipulations the consequences are legal condemnation and judgment. Those terms, condemnation and judgment, are terms that are related to guilt before a courtroom. It’s not that God is mad and He’s just up there throwing a temper tantrum, but that His righteousness has been violated and therefore, His justice must condemn man and bring punishment on man. This is brought to completion in human history in the period of the Tribulation, which is referred to both as the time of the wrath of the Lamb and the wrath of God. Those terms of “wrath” are terms of judicial condemnation. Just as we sometimes say in a courtroom setting that we’ve experienced the “wrath of the judge.” It’s not that we are saying that the judge has gotten angry and emotional. That is the last thing that we want, an emotional judge. You want a judge that is impartial, a judge who is objective, but when he throws the book at you and you experience the full weight of the law against you, that is the wrath of the court. It is simply an idiom for expressing the fact that you have felt the full force of the law against you.
Angels are part of the dispensing of God’s judgment and they are also witnesses to the fact in history that God’s righteousness and justice and love are consistent in their operation and that God is demonstrating in His dealings with the human race that when man sins, or anyone sins, it brings about such great consequences, such horrible consequences of sin and suffering; that God is completely justified in condemning creatures to eternity in the Lake of Fire. This is the overall structure of the angelic conflict. We see this in the role of angels in Revelation. The question that we have to address in any kind of Bible study is that when you look at a phrase “to the angel of the church of Ephesus or Smyrna, or Thyatira or Pergamum or Sardis, Philadelphia or Laodicea,” you have to say within the framework of Revelation, what do angels do? Because what I am arguing here is that the role of angels in these letters is not any different from the role the angels play in the rest of the book of Revelation.
Let’s just do a survey this morning of what angels do in the book of Revelation. The first mention of the term “angel” after we get out of Revelation 3 is in the heavenly scene in Revelation 4-5, which pictures what is taking place in the heavenly courtroom at the beginning of the Tribulation. Revelation 4 begins with John saying “After these things, behold, I saw a door standing open in heaven. And the first voice I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying, 'Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.'” So this is the Rapture as it were, and John is in the throne (room) of God, and the major event that is taking place here is that there is a scroll that is mentioned in Revelation 5:1. This scroll is written on the inside and the outside. This scroll is the document. It is presented as a legal document that is outlining the charges against the human race, as it were. It is sealed with seven seals and there is a strong angel. This is our first mention of “angel”. There is a strong angel who proclaims who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals.
The question is who is qualified to take this legal document, which is a condemnation on the human race for their rejection of God, who is qualified to execute the judicial sentence against the human race? That is the thrust of this question. The angel is functioning within the framework of a court, something like the bailiff. Who is qualified to execute this judgment? We are told that no one in heaven or earth was able to open the scroll or to look at it. John begins to weep and an angel comes to him and says, don’t weep, there is One Who is worthy and this is the Lamb, and the Lamb comes forward, and the Lamb is worthy to open the seal. You have this praise of the Lamb given in Revelation 5:9, “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for you were slain and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nations, and have made them kings and priests to our God; and they shall reign on the earth.” There’s some textual problems there we will get to when we study the passage.
Then John says, “I looked and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: 'Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom, and strength and honor and glory and blessing!'” They are praising God, so this is the second picture we see as a result of Jesus the Lamb coming forward to take the scroll. There is praise; the angels, thousands upon thousands, myriads upon myriads call out to Him, praising Him because He is worthy to execute this judgment on the human race for their disobedience. The next picture we see of angels is in Revelation 7. Revelation 6 describes the first seal judgments, and then we are told, Revelation 7:1 “After these things”, John says, “I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, on the sea, or on any tree.” So they are being used by God in the execution of this judgment. They’re holding back the wind so that no wind is going to blow.
Can you imagine the metrological consequences of no wind? This is when we need Charlie Clough in here. No wind! What is that going to do to the climate? What is that going to do to crops? What is that going to do to agriculture? What effect is that going to have on any number of different aspects of the environment? These are those four particular angels and then in Revelation 7:2-4 John says, “I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God. And he cried with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the sea, saying, 'Do not harm the earth, the sea,' yet, 'until we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads.'” So this angel is going to seal or put a divine protection, some sort of divine capsule around the 144,000 to protect them so they aren’t harmed from the environmental damage that is going to be executed by these other four angels.
What we see here is the role of angels in terms of executing blessing and executing judgment, both of which come from the integrity of God. God from His justice either blesses or condemns. So they’re carrying out the judicial operation of God. Then in Revelation 7:10-11 we see angels mentioned again and again they are worshiping before God. They are “crying out in a loud voice saying, 'Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!' And all the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures, and fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God.” So the angels are involved in worship; they’re involved in judgment; they’re involved in carrying out blessing, and one thing I didn’t mention because I didn’t go back to the beginning, we started in Revelation 4, is that angels are used to communicate revelation. Go back to where we studied many times, Revelation 1:1, where the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to display to His servants, things which must quickly take place; and He communicated it by sending His angel. Angels are used to communicate and disclose God’s revelation.
We are building our categories here. Revelation 8, there are seven angels in Revelation 8:2 who stand before God and they are given seven trumpets. These are going to blow on their trumpets and each of those trumpets announce another judgment. Then in Revelation 8:3 we’re told about another angel who holds a censor. This censor is a golden bowl that holds the incense, and as the incense burns, the smoke rises and this is a picture of the prayers of the saints rising to God. What are the prayers of the saints as we’ve seen to this point in Revelation? The saints are praying that God will execute judgment on the planet. “How long, O Lord? How long are the righteous going to suffer?” That is their prayer. When are You finally going to execute judgment on evil doers on the planet? This angel is holding the censor and the picture we see is Revelation 8:3-5, “He was given much incense that he should offer with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand. Then the angel took the censor, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth.”
This is a picture of executing the judgment that has been called for by the prayers of the saints. And He is going to pour out. The picture is that he pours out this fire on the earth; Revelation 8:5 “And there were noises, thunderings, lightenings, and an earthquake.” So the role of the angel again is executing judgment on the planet, Revelation 8:13. Then we have in Revelation 8:6 and following we have the seven angels beginning to blow on their seven trumpets. The first angel sounds his trumpet in Revelation 8:7; the second angel in Revelation 8:8; the third angel in Revelation 8:10; the fourth angel in Revelation 8:12; and then in Revelation 8:13 we have three left; then John said, Behold, “I heard an angel flying through the midst of heaven, saying with a loud voice, “Woe, woe, woe.” These are the last three trumpet judgments. Each one is a “woe”; “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound.” So again, he is announcing judgment on the planet.
Then in Revelation 9:1 we have the fifth trumpet. Look at this, “Then the fifth angel sounded, and I saw” what? A star fallen from heaven to the earth; see this isn’t a literal star; it’s a “him.” To him was given the key to the bottomless pit and he opened the bottomless pit. Smoke arose out of the pit like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit.” And out of the smoke locusts came and these are these various demons that are released at this time, but the star that falls from heaven is an angel. This is another confirmation of the fact; and this is one thing that locks down the meaning of the word. It is that you have in Revelation 1:20 seven stars and those seven stars equal the seven angels of the seven churches. The term “star” in the Scripture refers to a literal star or in Genesis 37.
In Revelation 12 we have it representing the tribes of Israel. But in numerous passages, such as Job 38:4-7; this passage in Revelation 9:1, and then we’ll see in a minute the Revelation reference to the dragon taking a third of the stars with him. That refers to the angels. So “star” refers to the angels. You never have the term “star” used metaphorically refer to human leaders or to human beings. Therefore, you have the burden, for those who claim the angel of the seven churches is the pastor or human messenger, the burden of proof is on them to demonstrate somewhere, anywhere in Scripture where this star-angel combination can refer to a human being. It can’t! Lexically it cannot! I mean you might as well go be a liberal and reinterpret the constitution as a living document. You are playing with the words. You are changing the meaning in order to get that; and you have to stick with how words are used in Scripture. So it pretty much locks it down.
Revelation 9:1-3, the fifth trumpet, you have a star that comes to open the abyss. What is he doing? He is executing judgment. He is going to release this demonic locust horde on the earth that’s going to bring about judgment. The next mention of angels is in Revelation 10:1 “I saw another mighty angel coming down from heaven, clothed with a cloud; and a rainbow was on his head.” I said earlier when we talked about the imagery in Revelation 1 that this is imagery of the throne of God, a rainbow. That is a picture of what’s around the throne of God. Isaiah 6, Ezekiel, others, when they see the throne of God they see a rainbow. This signifies that he is a messenger from heaven. Now when I mentioned this several weeks ago I said that the imagery is so divine that I am wondering if this could be the Lord Jesus Christ, but it is not. It is an angel and all this imagery is emphasizing his divine authority. He is clothed with a cloud. A cloud represents the throne of God again.
“A rainbow is on his head, and his face was like the sun and his feat like the pillars of fire.” That same imagery was used of the Lord Jesus Christ, but it is not limited to Him. This is indicating that he is a messenger from God. “And he holds a little book in his hand.” We are not told what is in it, but this little book contains an indictment on the human race. He is indicting them and judging them. John is told in Revelation 10:4 to seal this up. Revelation 8:5-7 “Then the angel whom I saw standing on the sea and on the land raised up his hand to heaven and swore by Him who lives forever and ever, WHO CREATED HEAVEN AND THE THINGS THAT ARE IN IT, AND THE EARTH AND THE THINGS IN IT, AND THE SEA AND THE THINGS IN IT, that there should be delay no longer, but in the days of the sounding of the seventh angel, when he’s about to sound, then the mystery of God is finished.” So he is declaring the end. This happens right at the end of the Tribulation, announcing the seventh trumpet, which contains the seven bowl judgments; so this is probably the last six months of the Tribulation period.
Then in Revelation 12 we are told of angels again. There is a war in heaven between Michael and his angels and the dragon and his angels, which shows that the demons are in fact angels. This is reference to the angelic conflict and in Revelation 12:9 the devil and his angels are cast out of heaven. In Revelation 12:4 we have the reference to the fact that “his tail drew a third of the stars of the heaven and threw them down to the earth.” Once again, “stars” equal angels. You have this connection that locks in our interpretation and understanding of the meaning of the word ANGELOS. So there is this war and a third of the angels are cast out of heaven. This takes place halfway through the Tribulation and the demons are going to be cast to the earth. You are going to walk along the earth and we’re going to see angels, demons visible. But angels, holy angels are also going to be visible. We’re going to hear them; we’re not, but those in the Tribulation are going to hear them.
This is seen in the next mention of angels in Revelation 14:6 “Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on the earth.” See here we have angels as evangelists. This is an angel that is going to be visible and is going to be audible in the Tribulation, bringing another level of evangelism to the people during the Tribulation. Angels are going to be witnessing to human beings during the Tribulation. And believe me, millions of people are going to be saved during the Tribulation, but part of it is going to be angelic evangelism. In Revelation 14:8 another angel is seen. You see another angel. You have a bunch of angels in Revelation 14. “Another angel followed, saying, 'Babylon is fallen.'” So he is announcing the judgment of Babylon that great end-time empire that the Antichrist heads over against the Kingdom of God.
Revelation 14:9 “Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, 'If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or his hand, he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God.'” What is he announcing? If you line yourself up with the Antichrist you’re going to experience the judgment of God. So again these angels are announcing judgment. Revelation 14:15 another angel comes out of the temple imploring the One on the cloud to thrust in His sickle and reap. Now notice this. He comes out of the temple. Is this the temple in Jerusalem? No. Where is his temple? It’s in Heaven. So what we see is that there is a correspondence between heavenly realities and earthly realities and this a factor that we must understand to understand the role of these angels. There is a correspondence between the church on the earth and what is happening on the earth and some things that are happening in heaven.
As I pointed out last time, it is not that these seven letters are being written to the angel and then the angel delivers it to the church, but that the whole book of Revelation is being sent by John to the seven churches, but these letters, that we will see in a minute, are a critique or judicial evaluation sheets almost like indictments, except they are positive. Indictments, generally, we think of as negative. These have a positive aspect to them. So these are being posted to the heavenly angel in relationship to the heavenly courtroom trial, but they are also being sent to the churches. So we have this angel coming out of the temple imploring the One on the cloud to thrust in His sickle and reap and then in Revelation 14:17 another angel comes out of the temple carrying a sharp sickle and then in Revelation 14:18 even another angel comes out from the altar who has power over fire and he cries to the One who has the sharp sickle to thrust in the sharp sickle into human history and to execute judgment. And then in Revelation 14:19 that angel with the sharp sickle mentioned in Revelation 14:17 executes the judgment and inserts the sharp sickle of judgment into human history.
Then in Revelation 15 we are introduced to seven more angels. These angels carry the seven bowl judgments. Each has one of these plagues and the bowls are filled with the wrath of God. In Revelation 16:1 angels are mentioned again and these angels with the seven bowls are commanded to “pour out the seven bowls of the wrath of God on the earth.” They begin to carry out their role of executing these seven bowl judgments. Then in Revelation 17:1 there is an angel who comes to John, “one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls came and talked with me, saying to me, “Come, I will show you the judgment of the great harlot who sits on many waters.” What is this angel doing? He is saying, come, witness the judgment. Again he is involved in judgment.
Revelation 18:1-3 another angel comes along. “After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory. And he cried mightily with a loud voice saying, 'Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird! For all the nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth have become rich through the abundance of her luxury.'” What is he doing? He’s announcing the execution of God’s judgment on Babylon. Once again angels are involved with the execution of divine judgment.
Revelation 19:17 an angel announces the gathering of the final judgment at Armageddon in very interesting imagery. In Revelation 19:17 “Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, 'Come and gather together for the supper of the great God.'” All these carrion eating birds. There is going to be a mighty battle and many dead bodies, come and eat. So he announces the judgment that finalized the battle of Armageddon. In Revelation 20:1-2 “Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit” that is the abyss, “and a great chain in his hand. He laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.” So what is he doing? He is executing judgment.
Revelation 21:9 is the next mention of angels. “Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls filled with the seven last plagues.” Notice, we are beyond the Millennial Kingdom by now, we are into the New Heaven and New Earth, but John still identifies this angel as an angel who’s involved in the judgment of the seven plagues. “And he said to me, 'Come, I will show the bride, the Lamb’s wife.'” The angel is used again in the realm of revelation, to show him the bride of the Lamb of God. He is showing him the church, the Lamb’s wife.
In Revelation 22 we have two mentions of angels. It is so crucial. In the very beginning of the first verse already, it says Jesus Christ communicated this by sending His angel to John, and this is stated twice in Revelation 22:6. “Then he said to me, 'These words are faithful and true. And the Lord God of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things which must shortly take place.'” Angels were involved in revelation. But who is it that appears to John on the Isle of Patmos? It is the Lord Jesus Christ. Notice you have this dual element. This is what we find in Galatians 3:19. Why the Law then? It was added because of our transgressions, Paul writes, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator. Now wait a minute, did you see any angels on Mount Sinai?
Cecil B. DeMille did a fairly decent job of visualizing the pillar of fire carving out with the finger of God the Ten Commandments on the side of the mountain. It was Charlton Heston cowering on the ledge there that was a great image. Guess what? You don’t see any angels there do you? You don’t see any angels in Exodus 19 or Exodus 20, but yet Paul says angels were there. The Law was given through the agency of angels. So you see this angelic element there. Not only that, but the passage that Charlie mentioned to me yesterday, which was the one I’d been rattling around in the back of my head, is in Deuteronomy 32:1. At the end of Deuteronomy, which is a reiteration of the Law, Moses’ parting sermon to the nations. At the end he says, “Give ear, O heavens, and let me speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.” What is Moses saying? He is calling upon the angels in heaven and the people on the earth to be witnesses to the legal contract that God is making with Israel. All of this is set within this legal framework within the overall appeal trial of Satan.
What does this mean in conclusion? What this means in conclusion is that lexical evidence clearly indicates that the angel-star combination must indicate a real angel. Now the next question we’ve been addressing is why do the angels need to know this? Because the angels are being witnesses to God’s justice; this is the imagery that we have. In Revelation 1:13 Jesus appears “clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.” Later on when you look at the description of the seven angels who pour out the bowl judgments how are they described? They are clothed with a white garment and girded about the chest with a golden band. See this is a picture of judgment. This is a picture of Jesus in Revelation 1 as the Judge of the high court. And the angels are clothed the same way because they are the agents of that judgment.
Now the picture in Revelation 1:13-16 is that Jesus clothed in a garment down to the feet, girded about the chest with a golden band with His head and His hair white like wool, as white as snow, His eyes like a flame of fire, … out of His mouth proceeds the sharp two-edged sword, the RHOMPHAIA sword, which is the sword of judgment. This is a picture. Jesus is the Priest-Judge operating where? He is walking in the midst of the seven lampstands, which are the churches. It is a function of the integrity of God toward the local church in the process and in the scope of the Church Age. Jesus Christ is utilizing His angels in that process. And they are witnesses in this appeal trial as to how God is executing judgment in the church. In Preston City Bible Church, in West Houston Bible Church, at North Stonington Bible Church, at First Baptist Church, at First Methodist Church.
Jesus Christ is executing judgment on an on-going basis. There is an evaluation going on of the corporate local church, not just the individuals. That is what we see in the structure of these letters. Let’s just outline what we find here. This is like an indictment sheet. Maybe there is a better word for it, but what happens in each of these is that there is a process of evaluation that goes on. There is an opening address for each letter. This is addressed to the church of Ephesus, to the church of Smyrna, Sardis, Thyatira, Pergamum, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Then there is a reference to a specific attribute or character of the Lord Jesus Christ. And with one exception they all go back to picking up one element in that initial vision in Revelation 1. This is so crucial. You can’t separate Revelation 2 and Revelation 3 from Revelation 1. It is the Lord as He appears in Revelation 1 that is the basis for the judgments, the evaluation, and the critique of Revelation 2-3.
So there is a citation of pertinent attributes of Jesus Christ:
1.“To the angel of the church of Ephesus write, these things that He who holds the seven stars in His right hand, who walks in the midst of the seven golden lampstands.”
2. The letter to Smyrna He is referred to as the “First and the Last, who was dead, and came to life” which is a reference back to Revelation 1:17 and on-going. So there is a reference there to character.
3. There is a commendation. There is an expression of what the congregation is doing right, which recognizes that Jesus knows full well what is going on in the entire congregation, in their spiritual life.
4. Then there is a condemnation. There is one letter that has no commendation at all. It is just condemnation, which is a description of the state of the church, which censures their behavior. They are being disobedient; and then there is a correction. There is a promise and a challenge to repent and change because the Lord is coming. For example, the letter to the church of Ephesus, they’re challenged, Revelation 2:5 “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent,” which doesn’t mean to put on sackcloth and ashes and get emotional, but it means to change your mind “do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place – unless you repent.” So it is a call to correction. And in Revelation 2:7 there is a call, a universal command to hear the Word. Not every element is present in every single one, but this structures all of them. Finally there is a challenge, a personal promise to the overcomer. He who overcomes will receive, that is, the believer who reaches spiritual maturity will receive certain additional blessings and rewards in heaven as a result of their steadfast obedience to the Word.
These aren’t like Romans, and 1 John, and Galatians. These are short critique sheets highlighting what the church is doing right, what they are doing wrong, and it is being posted to the heavenly angel, so that he is standing there. There is an angel of Preston City Bible Church standing there with a critique sheet and evaluating the congregation according to these standards; and that is true for every church and we will be held accountable. I as pastor for these years that I have been here, and you as a congregation will be held accountable for what we do with the doctrine that we have been taught during this time, during our life, and that will be part of the evaluation that takes place at the judgment seat of Christ when the Rapture occurs and we are evaluated in terms of 1 Corinthians 3.
With our heads bowed and our eyes closed. Father, we do thank you for this time to study Your Word this morning. We thank You for understanding that there’s accountability, part of the first divine institution, and responsibility. That we will be accountable for our actions as believers, accountable for how we handle the Word, accountable for how we’ve responded to what we’ve been taught. This will be apart of the evaluation at the BEMA seat of Jesus Christ. Father, we pray that You will challenge us with these things. We also pray for anyone here who may not be a believer, who may be unsure or uncertain of their eternal life. This is your opportunity to make that sure and certain, your opportunity to put your faith alone in Christ alone, your opportunity to determine that you will avoid eternal condemnation and you will receive God’s free gift of eternal life. Right now, right where you sit you can make that certain. All you need to do is believe Jesus Christ died on the Cross for your sins.
Father we pray that you would challenge us with the things that we’ve studied today; that we may recognize that our lives are lived out on a universal stage. We are in the midst of a angelic stadium where our lives are witnesses to Your grace, Your integrity, and Your righteousness. And may we be mindful of that in every decision we make. We pray this in Christ’s Name, amen.