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May 20 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

Reflexion chapter 14 – 05/19/2024



Welcome and Prayer: Nancy Lopez

Welcome to RefleXion!              Grace and Peace to you!

We’ve had special days to celebrate the last couple of Sundays.  Well, now, I get to say, “Happy Birthday!”  because today we celebrate Pentecost, otherwise known as the birthday of the Church.

When Jesus ascended to heaven forty days after resurrection, he told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem,  From the Book of Acts,  “And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, ‘you heard from me;  for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.'” And, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”   

And it was indeed ten days later, so on the fiftieth day after resurrection (and that’s why it’s called Pentecost), they received that baptism and that power.  The Greek term dynamis is the term translated as power.  Chuck mentioned that last week.  Remember when Jesus was about to arrested and he responded that his enemies had the power of darkness, and Chuck talked about power and authority as it related to Revelation, chapter 13.  The enemy had been given the power of darkness and its authority for a time, and we (the Church) have been clothed with the power and authority of the Holy Spirit for our time.

You can read Peter’s sermon in Acts 2 for the details of the power they (we) were given.  It’s our time to consider this and what it means for us, “for such a time as this.”  What power and what authority do we have?  What does it look like for you?  I’ll be thinking about that for myself.

Meanwhile, our friend Bill Dogterom wrote a magnificent piece that I would like to use for today’s opening prayer.  Shared with permission, he entitles it  “Towards Pentecost.” 

palpable longing
textured desperation
framing desire
hunger irreducible to word
groaning unutterable
ache born of the tearing
gaping chasm between was and is
crying out for the joining
for the will be
not for the first time
we are told
dying to any other hope
not delay
not denial
preparing the vessel
pressurizing the crucible
purifying the longing
how long?
known only to One
we wait
we pray
Come, Holy Spirit, Come

Morning Talk: chuck smith, jr.

Intro: I’ve been feeling that talking about the book of Revelation

Is like trying to practice dream interpretation
– how do I make sense out of all these foreign signs and symbols?
– of course, the bigger question is: what is God’s Spirit trying to communicate to us?

Here is what I find vital in chapter 14 – two key locations

By “key,” I’m referring to their importance in the entire range of scripture
– the first key location is in verse 1, (and this is the only place in Revelation where it occurs)
Mount Zion, and the second key location is Babylon (v. 8)
◦ Zion is a spiritual realm – God’s kingdom on earth
◦ it interacts with the city of David, but is separate from it–Zion transcends physical space
◦ Jerusalem is always a literal city; Zion is God’s dwelling among his people
Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised
in the city of our God!
His holy mountain, beautiful in elevation,
is the joy of all the earth,
Mount Zion, in the far north,
the city of the great King.
Within her citadels God
has made himself known as a fortress (Ps. 48:1-3)
And in Isaiah, “. . . the LORD will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory there will be a canopy”(Isa. 4:2-6)
• Babylon is the opposite of Zion — humans built Babylon up from the earth – Zion comes from heaven
– a brief background on Babylon, which begins with the genealogy of Noah:
Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the LORD. Therefore it is said, “Like Nimrod a might hunter before the LORD. The beginning of his kingdom was Babel . . .” (Gen. 10:8-10)
• Babel was the original site of the city that became Babylon
◦ he became a legendary hero – made his own way; the prototype of a successful “man of the world”
◦ after him, all of humankind aspired to greatness in the same spirit as Nimrod
Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth – that place became Babel (Gen. 11:1-4)
• these are the roots of a mighty empire, that in time conquered and exiled Judah from the land
◦ Israel’s prophets considered Babylon as the epitome of Gentile civilization
▫ it was a well-planned metropolis
▫ its hanging gardens were one of the seven wonders of the world
▫ it conquered and ruled all of the surrounding nations
▫ it was the human race “come of age” – the secular city
◦ Babylon owned the world and boasted its greatness
Nebuchadnezzar: Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty? (Dan. 4:30)
Babylon, the glory of kingdoms,
the splendor and pomp of the Chaldeans,
will be like Sodom and Gomorrah
when God overthrew them (Isa. 13:19)
. . . she has proudly defied the LORD, the Holy one of Israel (Jer. 50:29)
– Babylon is all the worldly social systems throughout history
• government, commerce, military, and culture
◦ behind it and influencing it were “the cosmic powers . . . spiritual forces of evil” (Ep. 6:12)
• Zion and Babylon are the two archenemies competing for humankind
◦ if Zion is the city of God, Babylon is the city of Satan

John introduces this vision, with “I looked, and behold”
Then I looked, and behold, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him 144,000 who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven like the roar of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder. The voice I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps, and they were singing a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and before the elders. No one could learn that song except the 144,000 who had been redeemed from the earth. It is these who have not defiled themselves with women, for they are virgins. It is these who follow the Lamb wherever he goes. These have been redeemed from mankind as firstfruits for God and the Lamb, and in their mouth no lie was found, for they are blameless Revelation 14:1-5

Then opening words speak to us as if John were saying,
“I looked, now you look and I’ll show you what I saw”
– “the Lamb” –this image made a strong impression on John
• in his gospel, Jesus is first introduced into the narrative as
the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29)
• when Jesus died on the cross, John realized
these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken” (Jn. 19:36)
◦ this was in reference to the Passover lamb, “you shall not break any of its bones” (Ex. 12:46)

Is there an image of Jesus in the gospels that has made a strong impression on you?
– the good shepherd? the true vine? something more contemporary, like a Life Guard?
• we cannot become intimate with a mere concept of Jesus
• Jesus is “the image of God”
(see 2 Corinthians 4:4, where “image” translates the Greek word is eikon or icon)

With Jesus, the Lamb, we see 144,000 we met in chapter 7
– notice that the volume is turned way up in this vision
• what at first blasts like a roar, turns out to be music
◦ imagine this! 144,000 voices singing
(like one of the U2 concerts where at the end the thousands of people in the crowd were still singing acapella Psalm 40, How Long to Sing This Song?
• every major revival has had its own musical soundtrack
◦ a “new song,” because God is doing a new thing–here, the ultimate new thing
– remember, a “vision” is not a documentary, but speaks in symbols
not defiled with women. . . doesn’t mean the choir is all males
• virginity a symbol of purity, which speaks to the Old Testament theme in which disloyalty to Yahweh is treated as adultery
◦ Babylon will be introduced as the great prostitute who with kings of the earth had committed sexual immorality (17:1-2)
◦ there is a positive meaning for virginity; namely, total devotion to God
– my favorite line in this passage is follow the Lamb wherever he goes
If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also (Jn. 12:26)
• our Lord Jesus wants us to be with him!
◦ they belong to Jesus and not the world – they were redeemed from the earth
• in their mouth no lie was found – signifies their integrity
◦ there are some people from whom you cannot get a straight answer
◦ their intention to manipulate and control is the source of their deceit

Three angels arrive with three warnings

Then I saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people. And he said with a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.”

Another angel, a second, followed, saying, “Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great, she who made all nations drink the wine of the passion of her sexual immorality.”

And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name” Revelation 14:6-11

The first angel broadcasts a message of hope
– the eternal gospel – whatever the else that means, there is always hope
• and universal! “all those who dwell on the earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people”
• the angel includes instructions as to how people need to respond:
◦ reverence God and give him glory (rather than worshiping the beast)
◦ worship him – specifically, as Creator

The second angel announces the fall of Babylon
– remember, Babylon represents all worldly institutions
• Babylon has reached the end of its influence in the world
◦ it has proven to be a failed system
◦ this is because it operated outside of the will of God
• Babylon has served the world a cup of wine
◦ addiction to sensuality, materialism, and greed

The third angel brings a final warning
– a choice has to be made, which is why angel’s begins message with “If”
• everyone is going to be marked by one loyalty or the other
◦ the forehead is like a billboard that displays the owner’s mark
Jacques Ellul, “We comprehend that bringing this choice to light is the prelude to the judgment. And this is going to be expressed in the summons not to worship the beast and its image (the State, the political power), nor to participate in the activities of the world.”
– torment can result from:
• making wrong choices
• addiction, that is, the torture of restless desire, too strong to give up
David B. Hart, “We are not free because we can choose, but only when we have chosen well.”
Bruno Bettelheim, “The gingerbread house is an image nobody forgets: how incredibly appealing it is, and how terrible the risk one runs if one gives into the temptation.”
– these who are judged have no rest day or night – exactly was said of worshipers in Revelation 4:8
◦ one never takes a break, the other is never given a break

A breather from the intensity of the angelic messages
Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.
 And I heard a voice from heaven saying, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.” “Blessed indeed,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow them!” Revelation 14:12-13

The “call” is not like the previous announcements
– this is for the saints
• this call comes to us every day
• we have to endure, but to endure we have to trust Jesus
Yesterday morning my reading was in Job, where he asked God
Why did you bring me out from the womb?
Would that I had died before any eye had seen me . . . .’ (Job 10:19
Here are a few pieces from my meditation on this verse
“Early morning on this date last year, Audrey Sill ended her life. . . . I have felt the despair of both Job and Audrey. . . . Right now I cannot think of anything sadder than giving up, while there is still hope–even if we cannot see or feel that hope.”
– verse 13 tells us there is such a thing as a “good death” – a “blessing”
that they may rest from their labors sharply contrasts with those in torment who have no rest (v. 11)

Three more angels appear for the final harvest
Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and seated on the cloud one like a son of man, with a golden crown on his head, and a sharp sickle in his hand. And another angel came out of the temple, calling with a loud voice to him who sat on the cloud, “Put in your sickle, and reap, for the hour to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is fully ripe.” So he who sat on the cloud swung his sickle across the earth, and the earth was reaped.
Then another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. And another angel came out from the altar, the angel who has authority over the fire, and he called with a loud voice to the one who had the sharp sickle, “Put in your sickle and gather the clusters from the vine of the earth, for its grapes are ripe.” So the angel swung his sickle across the earth and gathered the grape harvest of the earth and threw it into the great winepress of the wrath of God. And the winepress was trodden outside the city, and blood flowed from the winepress, as high as a horse’s bridle, for 1,600 stadia Revelation 14:14-20

Again John says, “I looked, and behold”
That there will be a final clash between Zion and Babylon is inevitable
Jacques Ellul, “The conception of judgment that we find as much in the prophets as in the psalms, as much in the Gospels and in the Epistles is not a cultural phenomenon: it rests upon that evident conviction that if God is God, both perfect and just, how can the encounter between this God and the world as we know it take place without some sparks being produced . . .?”
– the symbols in these angelical actions are ultimate:
• they everyone, the choice is final, and the consequences are forever
– I cannot accept that John is describing literal events that have either occurred in the past or will occur in the future
• the Revelation is not a crystal ball that allows us to predict and locate
• John is describing an ongoing struggle that is both within our own inner life,
◦ and also within our spiritual community
it is a conflict we must face and work our way through

Conclusion: Let’s back out of the vision – wake up from our dream

There is no better, purer experience of the Christian faith
than the moment when the Jesus of scripture
makes himself present to us as the Jesus we meet in the here and now
I know that the powers of darkness must be judged and eliminated
But that isn’t my job – though I do have to resist them
The best way, and most rewarding way, to resist is to close in on Jesus
And he is already reaching to take your hand

One Comment

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  1. Ferly / May 24 2024

    Thank you Chuck :-)! I had the open time to join Reflexion a Spiritual community for this last Sunday’s May 19, 2024 exposition of your current ongoing teaching of Revelation…

    Chuck, as I stand and rest before my Beloved Jesus and King of my heart and life, Song of Songs 2:12 springs up in my bowels like a river of peace and joy– as He does for us when we fix our eyes on JESUS our King-

    “When flowers appear on the earth the season of singing has come”… to everything there is a season a time for every purpose under heaven & i in every season I will praise Him. For our God is so good every day and always world without end where there are pleasures for evermore and now we share in His Presence and glory even now in this new era He is ushering in for His end time harvest.

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