Lessons on Leadership from Nehemiah
Victory - Revelation 19
How will it all end? That is the question everyone wants toknow. Revelation 19 is about victory, triumph and praise. It is a scene of exultation. John hears praise of God coming from heaven four times (Rev. 19:1,3, 4, 6). This is heaven’s alleluia and it will be sung for these reasons.
First, God has judged His enemies (vs. 1-4). This song emphasizes that God is true and righteous. Also, that he is to be glorified by His judgments.
Second, God is reigning (vs. 5-6). God has been reigning. Evil men have had their day. Now the time has come for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Third, the bride is ready ( vs. 7-10). Before we can appreciate this we need to consider three aspects of an ancient Eastern wedding ritual that are distinct from modern Western customs: (1) the marriage supper, (2) the bride, and (3) the garments she wears.
Prior to the marriage supper, a public betrothal is made which was regarded as more binding than our modern custom of engagement. When the time arrives for the marriage to be consummated, the groom, arrayed in his best attire and accompanied by his friends, forms a procession and goes to the home of his betrothed where he receives the bride and then brings her to his own home (Matt. 25:1-13). The usual festivities lasted seven days or longer.
The second custom to be understood is the fact that the one who was espoused (betrothed) was considered to be the bride of the groom even before the marriage supper (Deut. 22:23-24). For example, Mary was called Joseph's wife when she was betrothed to Joseph before they came together in sexual union. (Matt. 1:18, 20).
Among the Jews, the betrothal was so far regarded as binding that, if marriage should not take place, because of the absconding of the bridegroom or the breach of contract on his part, the young woman could not be married to another man until she was liberated by a due process and a paper of divorce (ISBE III: 1997).
During the betrothal period the groom pays the dowry to the father of the bride, and he prepares for the wedding feast wherethe marriage will ultimately be completed.
The church is currently "espoused" (betrothed) unto the Lord” (2 Cor. 11:2); therefore its relationship to Christ is that of a wife (Eph. 5:22-33; Rom. 7:4). In the Old Testament the nation of Israel was espoused unto the Lord (Jer. 2:2, 32), thus the relationship shared with Him was often referred to as a marriage (Isa. 50:1; 54:5-7; Ezek. 16). The analogy of the Lord with His people of the New Testament era is expressed in the same terminology. Therefore the church is the bride of Christ (John 3:29; Rev. 21:9). Christ has paid the dowry for the church; He has bought His bride with His own blood (Eph. 5:25; Acts 20:28). The actual occasion of the perfect union with Christ, the complete and final blessed consummation of the church with Christ, is reserved until after the final judgment day. This great union is described in chapters 21 and 22. During the betrothal period the bride must make herself ready by arraying herself in righteous apparel.
Fourth, Christ will return (vs. 11-20:3). He is King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16). His judgments are righteous altogether. Whoever or whatever the beast is that opposes Him and His people will be defeated.
How will all this turn out? God wins! So can we. No wonder there was a great multitude in heaven singing Alleluia!
Earth Morns. Heaven Rejoices. - Revelation 18
In chapter 17 we read of the evil harlot who wears the name “Babylon the great.” She has made her war against the saints. But in a great twist, the horns of the beast she rides turns against her and bring about her downfall.
Chapter 18 is the response to her fall. Notice that the chapter begins with that announcement (v. 2). God has remembered her iniquities and she is reaping what she has sowed (v. 5-8). Her judgment was swift and fierce (v. 8-9).
The responses over her fall are different. Earth morns for the harlot, for Babylon. There are described as 3 woes, 3 laments in this chapter (v. 9-10, 15-16, 17-19). It’s obvious that this wicked nation held a great influence over the other nations of the earth (v. 23).
The other response comes from heaven, and it is rejoicing (v. 20). Saints were martyred by this evil empire. The harlot and spilled the blood of God’s people (v. 24). God coming in judgement was a sign that 1. Vengeance/Justice was coming for the death of those saints, and 2. No nation/empire/force of evil can stand against the strength of the almighty God (v. 8).
Proverbs 14:34 says that “Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people.” When a nations sins have “piled up as high as heaven” (v. 5), this chapter reminds us God knows, and God answers.
The call for us, as God’s people is to pray for our nation and her rulers, to teach and be an influence of God, and ultimately to “come out of her... so that you will not participate in her sins and receive her plagues” (v. 4).
For our study, for the context of Revelation, chapter 18 is wonderful news. God has come in judgment against the enemy of his people. We’re now left with the questions: what about the beasts? What about the dragon? What will God do for His saints? Read on - the story is almost complete!
Mighty God, You are strong and valiant. No one can stand against You. Today I pray for this country, for USA. Bless her leaders. Help them to seek justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly before You. Renew the hearts of her citizens. Open doors for the gospel. Change her course. Let Your truth spread like a wildfire across this country. Help me to be a good citizen today - to show the gospel in the way I live - to let Christ be seen in me. My true citizenship is in heaven, wonderful Lord, and that’s where I long to be.
Babylon Is Defeated - Revelation 17
In chapter 12 a woman is clothed with the sun and with stars surrounding her head. She gives birth to the Christ, and has many other children who honor God by keeping His commandments and remain faithful to their testimony to Jesus Christ (12:17). She is connected to a city called “the beloved city” (20:9); “holy city” who is like a “bride made ready for her husband” the Lord (21:3). She is a glorious and eternal city.
In chapters 17-19, the second woman is a harlot. She is dressed in earthly luxury. Her children are harlots and people who do abominations (17:4-5). The harlot is also associated with a city; an earthly city, like the hated city of “Babylon,” but it will be destroyed with fire.
So, we have a tale of two women and two cities. We are left to ask, “Which one will we follow; in which one shall we live?”
In Revelation 12, Satan tried to destroy the plan of God by killing Jesus, but failed. So, he turned his attention to destroying the church. In Revelation 13, Satan raised up two allies to help him make war against the church. In Revelation 14-16, God delivers His people and pours out His wrath upon the devil and all his followers under the image of seven bowls of wrath.
The book of Revelation could rightly end at this point, however God chooses to reveal more detail about the destiny of the main characters of the story. Simply put, “Great Babylon” will be utterly destroyed (Rev. 17 – 20), and “the beloved city” of believers will be eternally secure (Rev. 21 – 22).
The destruction of those who persecute the people of God, pictured as “Babylon” has been revealed before. However, now we are given more detail. “And another angel followed, saying, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication’ ” (Revelation 14:8). “Now the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell. And great Babylon was remembered before God, to give her the cup of the wine of the fierceness of His wrath” (Revelation 16:19).
Now, we are given a more complete picture of the tools the devil uses to destroy faith. These three tools correspond to the total makeup of a person, who is made up of the will, intellect and emotions.
- First is intimidation: The first beast, the power of a contrary force attacking the will of a person.
- The second beast (false prophet): The deceitful philosophies of the world which cause people to worship anything other than God—attacking the mind/intellect of a person.
- Third is seduction: The harlot, who appeals to the flesh and pleasure of people—attacking the emotions of a person.
Satan uses the same tools today.
The most vivid picture of the city is the alluring nature of it(Revelation 17:4). It is personified as a “harlot;” the very picture of sinful allurement.
- Alluring Clothes – “The woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet;” the clothes of power and royalty.
- The Allure Of Power.
- Alluring Charms – “adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls”
- The Allure Of Wealth, which is emphasized in the next chapter.
- Alluring Cup – “having in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication.”
- The Allure Of The Flesh - Yet, note the cup is beautiful on the outside; gold! However, on the inside it is filthy with idolatry and spiritual fornication.
- The allure of sin looks good outwardly, but once one is in it, it is putrid.
While the people of the world drink of her immorality, she gets drunk on the blood of the saints. “I saw the woman, drunk with the blood of the saints and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus” (Revelation 17:6). Ultimately, this will be the reason for her fall.
John’s reaction is “When I saw her, I marveled with great amazement” (Revelation 17:6). Perhaps he expected to see the city in flames (based on the promise of 17:1), but instead he saw her at the peak of her power and she appeared invincible. Ah, but things would change. The angel steps in to clear up John’s amazement.
“The angel said to me, ‘Why did you marvel? I will tell you the mystery of the woman and of the beast that carries her, which has the seven heads and the ten horns.’ ” (Rev. 17:7).
Then, and here is the theme of Revelation, “These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for He is Lord of lords, and King of kings.” Can Christ overcome such powerful foes? This one, simple but profound, verse defines the theme of the story. Indeed, Christ shall overcome all enemies. The kingdom of God shall stand, but all of those founded by men shall fall. All men who may wear the title of "lord" or "king" are subject to the one great "Lord" and "King" who is Jesus Christ (1:5; Eph. 1:20-23).
In spite of apparent victory by those who oppose God and His people. God wins! Therefore, His people are victorious!
The Wrath of God - Revelation 16
In Revelation 16, God has “gathered together the horrors from all the stories of the avenging wrath of God and… hurled them on the unbelieving world in one last terrible deluge of disaster.” (William Barclay, The Revelation of John)
In chapter 16 we read about the bowls of wrath. We get the image of pouring out wrath on the enemies. God is loving, merciful and patient, slow to anger, abundant in mercy (Psalm 86:15), and yet our God is also a God of justice. Evil and wickedness will not go unpunished. The righteous have cried to God, asking for His action, His vengeance. Chapter 16 is the final group of “7” symbolic judgments, sending the message loud and clear: Justice will be done!
As you read through the bowls today – look back to chapters 8 and 9. There are similarities between the bowls and trumpets. For instance:
- 1st trumpet: 1/3 earth burned (8:7) – 1st bowl: earth sores (16:2)
- 2nd trumpet: 1/3 sea becomes blood (8:8) – 2nd bowl: sea becomes blood (16:3)
- 3rd trumpet: 1/3 rivers poisoned (8:10) – 3rd bowl: rivers become blood (16:4-7)
- 4th trumpet: 1/3 sun darkened (8:12) – 4th bowl: sun scorched men (16:8-9)
- 5th trumpet: locust released from pit (9:1-11) – 5th bowl: darkness on beast’s kingdom (16:10)
- 6th trumpet: army from Euphrates (9:13-21) – 6th bowl: army from Euphrates (16:12-16)
In this chapter we see that the wrath of God is just (they have poured out the blood of the saints – 16:6). We see that the wrath of God is complete (there are no more partials, no more thirds affected; in v. 17 the final bowl is announced as “it is done.”). We see that the wrath of God is intense (loathsome and malignant sores v. 2; scorched with fire v. 9; gnawed tongues because of pain v. 10; extremely severe v. 21).
Will God punish the wicked? Will God deal with the evil that has existed in this world? Will God answer the cries of His people, those afflicted and suffering? Yes, yes, and yes. Remember from Revelation 6:11, God will answer in His time. Though this chapter had it’s specific/intended audience, addressing the Christians suffering under the oppression of Rome, there is a message here for all Christians of every generation. Its what Peter said in 2 Peter 3:9-10, “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come…
God is patient. God gives us time – time to change, time to repent. But there will come a day when He will be patient no more. The day of the Lord will come. May we live each day in Christ. Be patient. Be prepared. The day of the Lord will come.
“Righteous Father, You are just and true. Your judgments are fair and right. I know that You know all and see all. You hear our prayers. You understand our hardships. You are pained with sin and evil. I know Lord, that You have promised to come. I know You will judge the living and the dead. I know we will stand before Your throne. My prayer today is that I be found right in You. Whether if Christ comes today, or tomorrow, or after I have passed from this life, may my heart, and my life, be pleasing to You. I ask for Your patience for myself as I daily strive to become more like Jesus. I ask patience for those who are drifting from You, for time and opportunity to help draw them back. One day Your justice will fully come. One day all evil will end. One day every knee will bow – what a glorious day that will be. Help me to be patient with others, as You are with me. Help me to live prepared for the day You return. My heart’s desire, my life’s longing is to be pleasing to You, my Lord and my God.”
A Song Because Of Joyful News - Revelation 15
Let me take a moment to remind us where we are in the story of Revelation. Remember that Revelation is told in pictures, symbols, that are not literal. Yet, they fit together to tell the story of how God will deliver His people from their adversary.
The story our chapter fits into began back in Revelation 12 by introducing a fierce enemy. Satan is shown trying to destroy the plan of God to save us in Jesus Christ. Yet, Satan is unsuccessful. So, Satan then turns his attention to the people of God. If he can destroy the people of God it doesn’t matter if the plan of God was fulfilled in Jesus. So he “makes war” against the church (12:17).
He raises up powerful opposition to make war against the church in chapter 13: “The first beast” was given power to “make war against the saints and overcome them” (13:7).
To make things worse Satan raises up a second beast, elsewhere called “the false prophet” to deceive people into worshiping worldly power, and all those who would not worship the devil’s devices were “killed” (13:15).
Soon it became abundantly clear those who followed the world wore the mark of the beast. You could hear it in the way they talked, the values they had, the things they loved, the activities they did. But, you could also tell those who wore the name of God on their forehead. They lived by godly values. Those who lived by godly values were soon singled out and the rest of the world would not “buy or sell” with them (13:17). As a result believers suffered, starved and died.
Revelation 12-13 paints a desperate situation as the church faces the fierce persecution of Satan and his terrible sidekicks.
However, beginning in chapter 14 we are given a preview of victory. While those who bore the mark of God on earth were hated and shunned, they are accepted and singing in heaven. The redeemed who have died in the Lord are seen singing in heaven—safe and secure on Mount Zion in the presence of the true Lamb of God (Rev. 14:1-5).
While the godly are safe, the angels ascend to the height of the sky to pronounce that the ungodly will fall! God promises to make the ungodly drink the cup of His wrath (14:6-13). God then orders for a great harvest to take place. The righteous and the wicked will be separated. The wicked will be crushed like grapes under the wrath of God.
That brings us to Revelation 15. Here the righteous respond in song to the joyful news of God’s deliverance of the righteous and judgment upon the wicked. When God’s people see what God is doing, worship is the only worthy response.
In fact, worship and God’s work are often tied together in this book. Before the two previous cycles of seven we see God’s people/creation worshiping. Before the opening of the seven seals, we see the great worship scene in heaven (Rev. 4-5). Before the sounding of the seven trumpets we see a great worship scene in heaven (Rev. 7:9-8:6). Now, before the pouring out of the seven bowls we see a great worship scene (Rev. 14-15). Is there a lesson for us here? We may usually think of worshiping only after God has done a good work for us. Yet, here we see an example of worshiping God in light of the good work He will do for us! That is worshiping by faith!
In addition, Revelation 15 introduces the third cycle of seven in the book of Revelation—the pouring out of seven bowls. This is called the “last” of the sevens, because when these seven bowls are poured out, God promised deliverance of His church and judgment upon their oppressors will be completed.
The singers are identified as “those who have victory over the beast.” These are the ones with whom Satan waged war and killed and persecuted.
These are the same ones we saw in Revelation 14:1-5. There we saw their character, now we hear their praise.
These victors stand on, or by, the sea. This sea is the same one we saw in Revelation 4:6. This sea of glass speaks of beauty and rest (glass, calm waters). However this glass also is “mingled with fire.” This could refer to, 1) the fiery trials that the saints endured to get there, or 2) to the fire of God’s wrath which was about to be released against the ungodly.
Back in Revelation 14 we were told when the redeemed believers opened their mouths they formed a powerful worship chorus which was as beautiful as harpist playing on their harps (Rev. 14:2-3). Here we have the same image used, “Having harps of God” (15:2). In verses 3 and 4 we are told something about the song they sang. Notice it is a song completely focused on the Lord. They did not sing of their problems they had survived, but of the power God has shown; not of what they had achieved, but of what the Lord had accomplished. There are no first-person pronouns (“we” “us” “our”), but only second-person pronouns (“You” “Your”) referring to God. Worship is about God! That doesn’t mean we can never refer to ourselves in worship, but we need to be careful that the emphasis of our worship is not ourselves. In worship if we just talk about ourselves, our acts, our experiences, our needs, our plans, it reveals who we really worship! Does our worship speak God’s name above, and more often, than ours?