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Author:Rev. Stephen 't Hart
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Baldivis
 Baldivis, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/baldivis/
 
Title:Who can stand before the wrath of the Lamb?
Text:Revelation 6:17 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:The Second Coming
 
Preached:2013-03-03
Added:2013-03-05
Updated:2013-03-11
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs from 1984 Book of Praise.  Bible Translation:  NKJV

Psalm 76:1,4,5

Psalm 130:2

Psalm 9:1,4,6,9,10

Psalm 2:4

Hymn 64:3,4

 

Read:  Revelation 6:9 – 7:3.

Text:  Revelation 6:17

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The world was going to end a few months ago, December 21, 2012.  At least that was the prediction based on an ancient Central American Mayan calendar.

There was even a movie about it, a movie with the unimaginative title “2012”.  The movie told the story of what happened when a solar flare caused the earth’s core to heat up leading to catastrophic disasters as the earth’s crust was displaced.  Not only did California slide into the Pacific Ocean, but several hundred million people died in the earthquakes and Tsunamis, while hero Jackson Curtis and company sought shelter in a specially prepared ark.  Then, after great dramas and a number of deaths, the Ark 4 is set adrift by a mega-tsunami, and eventually it travelled to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa where a new life could begin.

For many, 2012 was just a movie, but for others it fed their fear of “what if”.  What if the end of the world really was nigh, that disaster really was upon us?

And so there were predictions that the fictitious planet X Nibiru, or else a large comet, would crash into the earth.  There was the prediction that there would be a planetary alignment, causing a total blackout  from December 23 – 25 in 2012.  Others claimed that the rotation of the earth would reverse and there would be a massive polar shift possibly caused by a solar flare, producing the energy of 100 billion atomic bombs.  There was even the prediction of an alien invasion!  Now most of you might have been sheltered from all the hype, but many people were so afraid of these things that NASA felt it necessary to set up a web site and release YouTube clips in an effort to calm people down, to tell them there was no scientific reason to believe we’d come to the end of the world.

There is no need for us to fear the predictions that the world will end at a certain time.  There is no need for us even to be afraid of an apocalypse of zombies or an alien invasion, for we know that the God who made heaven and earth is in control of all things, that He’s got the whole world in His hands.

However, we can be sure of this: the end of the world will come.  And when it does come, it will be terrible.  Revelation 6 speaks of a great earthquake, the sun becoming black as sackcloth, the moon red like blood, the stars of heaven falling to the earth, the sky rolling up like a scroll and every mountain and island being moved out of its place.  When the Creation meets its Creator, it will quake and tremble, the cosmic upheaval will be massive, and everyone will know that the Day of the Lord has come.

And with it will come great fear!  However, the thing that will cause such fear to great and small, rich and poor alike is not so much the earthquake or the mountains being plunged into the sea, but what will cause great fear is coming face to face with “Him who sits on the throne and [with] the wrath of the Lamb!”  In all the movies and apocalyptic stories, it is the destruction of the earth that causes the fear, but in Revelation 6 it is something else.  Rather than flee from the rocks and the mountains, the people run to them, crying out in desperation, “Fall on us and hide us!  Hide us from the Face of Him who sits on the throne and the wrath of the Lamb.  For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?”

And so I preach to you the word of God under the following theme:

Who can stand before the wrath of the Lamb?

1. He comes as Judge.

2. He comes as Redeemer.

1. He comes as Judge.

We know the LORD as the God of love.  He is kind and compassionate, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.  He forgives sin and gives good gifts to us His children.  He feeds His flock like a shepherd; He gathers the lambs with His arm, carrying them in His bosom, and gently leads those who are with young.  And we know that God so loved the world that He sent us His only begotten Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.  We know these things because the Bible tells us it is so.

And concerning Jesus Christ, we know that He is gentle and lowly of spirit;  His burden is easy and His yoke is light.  He is the One who took children in His arms to bless them, who fed the hungry and healed the sick.  Like His Father, He binds up the broken-hearted and wipes away every tear from our eyes.  He is, as John the Baptist declared, the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.

But in Revelation 6 we read of something else.  In Revelation 6, both He who sits on the throne and the Lamb of God cause such great fear and terror to the people of this world that they plead for the mountains and the rocks to hide them from His face.  And the fear of God gripped all men, kings and great men, the rich, the army commanders, the mighty men, as well as every slave and freedman so that they all tried to flee in terror, to flee . . . from the wrath of the Lamb!  How can this be?  Is this the same Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world? Is this the same Jesus who called Himself gentle and lowly of heart?  Indeed it is!  And when we think about Him and witness concerning Him to others, this is something that we would do well to pay attention to.

 We need to be careful that we have a right understanding of the God whom we serve.  We need to be careful that we do not make an image of Him in our hearts, an image that takes away His holiness, His greatness, His majesty and His wrath so that we end up with a Saviour who looks tender and sweet but has no power or authority, and is hardly the ruler of the kings of the earth.  For the day is coming when He will return on the clouds of heaven, when He will pour out His wrath in judgment, executing justice and vengeance on His enemies.

This should not be a surprise, nor should we think that this is out of step with the rest of the Bible, not even the rest of the New Testament.  Rather, a right understanding of God must include an understanding of His wrath and the gospel must be preached and men and women must be called to repent in the context of the coming wrath.  “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God,” Hebrews 10:31 teaches us, for, as Hebrews 12:29 says, “Our God is a consuming fire.”

But when we speak of His wrath, we do not mean some sort of a blind rage, an uncontrolled, emotional explosion of anger.  Not at all!  His wrath is not a sinful, unholy emotion, but it is outpouring of His judgment on sin!  It is an answer to the prayer of the souls under the altar, the souls who had prayed “How long, O Lord, until You judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”  His wrath is tied to His justice, and He pours it out on those who oppose Him, those who remain at enmity with Him.

And that is not a new thought nor is Revelation 6 the first time we read of God’s wrath in this way.  In fact the description of what John saw when the sixth seal was opened – the earthquake, the sun turning to blood, the stars falling from the sky and so forth – is very similar to descriptions of God’s judgment in the Old Testament. 

And I will give you some examples to demonstrate the connection between what John saw when the sixth seal was opened and what the Old Testament reveals concerning the judgment of God upon the wicked.  Please turn with me first of all to the prophecies of Isaiah.

Isaiah 13:9,10

9 Behold, the day of the Lord comes,

Cruel, with both wrath and fierce anger,

To lay the land desolate;

And He will destroy its sinners from it.

10 For the stars of heaven and their constellations

Will not give their light;

The sun will be darkened in its going forth,

And the moon will not cause its light to shine.

 

Isaiah 34:4

All the host of heaven shall be dissolved,

And the heavens shall be rolled up like a scroll;

All their host shall fall down

As the leaf falls from the vine,

And as fruit falling from a fig tree.

Joel 2:10

10 The earth quakes before them,

The heavens tremble;

The sun and moon grow dark,

And the stars diminish their brightness.

 

And Isaiah 2:19-21.

19 They shall go into the holes of the rocks,

And into the caves of the earth,

From the terror of the Lord

And the glory of His majesty,

When He arises to shake the earth mightily.

20 In that day a man will cast away his idols of silver

And his idols of gold,

Which they made, each for himself to worship,

To the moles and bats,

21 To go into the clefts of the rocks,

And into the crags of the rugged rocks,

From the terror of the Lord

And the glory of His majesty,

When He arises to shake the earth mightily.

And so the description of God’s judgment and the wrath of the Lamb in Revelation 6 is very similar the descriptions of God’s judgment in the Old Testament.  Most of the Old Testament judgments referred to specific nations, prophecies that God would pour out His wrath of them and that they would cease to exist as nations.  But now Revelation 6 brings a number of these Old Testament pictures of judgment together to describe the Great Day of God’s judgment, the last and final judgment at the end of the world.  And the reason why the people of the earth would be judged in this way was because they did not trust in the Lamb who had been slain for the sin of the world.  They did not seek their salvation in Christ, their sins were not covered by His blood, but instead they remained His enemies.  And so they will face the wrath of the Lamb.

And the reality is that everyone who is not covered in the blood of Christ, every person who does not have Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour will face His wrath and will not be able to stand at His appearing.  Just as Adam and Eve hid from the glorious majesty of God after they fell into sin in Genesis 3, so every person who is not covered in Christ’s blood and clothed with His righteousness will try to flee in terror at His appearing.  The idea that Jesus is love without justice, mercy without righteousness, is simply not true.  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  His judgment on sin has come and will come.  And therefore there must be a warning in our preaching and in our teaching and in our evangelising.  Just as John the Baptist called the people to repentance, telling them that the axe was at the root of the tree, so we must tell one another that judgment is coming.  This world will not go on forever as it is, but judgment will come, a judgment that will cause men and women to run for the hills and plead for the rocks to cover them in the vain hope that this would keep them from the wrath of God. 

And this was also the message of Pentecost.  In fact when Peter spoke to the people in Acts 2, explaining what it meant that the Holy Spirit had come, he quoted from the Old Testament prophecies of Joel chapter 2, a prophecy that spoke not only of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, but also of the coming day of judgment.  Let’s have a look at that together in Acts 2:14-21.

First of all, Acts 2:14–18.

14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, raised his voice and said to them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and heed my words. 15 For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel:

17 ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God,

That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh;

Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

Your young men shall see visions,

Your old men shall dream dreams.

18 And on My menservants and on My maidservants

I will pour out My Spirit in those days;

And they shall prophesy.

So here Peter uses the prophet Joel to prove that the Holy Spirit would be poured out as He was on the day of Pentecost.  But he does not end the quotation from Joel there, but goes on in verse 20 – 22,

19 I will show wonders in heaven above

And signs in the earth beneath:

Blood and fire and vapor of smoke.

20 The sun shall be turned into darkness,

And the moon into blood,

Before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord.

21 And it shall come to pass

That whoever calls on the name of the Lord

Shall be saved.’

What this means is that when God sent His Holy Spirit, His judgment would soon follow!  And so we need to call people to repentance with urgency!  We can not be indifferent to those who are blindly going through life without even a thought concerning the judgment that is to come.  By all means let us preach and speak and witness about our only Saviour Jesus Christ – for that is what we are called to do.  But as you do so, be urgent in your appeal!  Make no mistake: judgment is coming.  Do not scoff about the day of His appearing as if it will never come, for the great day of His wrath will come, and then who is able to stand?

And yet, having said all this, the message of the gospel is not primarily one of judgment, but a message of hope, a message of comfort, a message of salvation.  For the Lamb who  comes will come not just as Judge but also as Redeemer.  We shall see this further in our second point.

2. He comes as Redeemer.

The cry of Revelation 6:17 “For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” was a cry of terror and of hopelessness.  It was a cry that said that there was no way to hide from the wrath of the Lamb. 

But  that is not right, for there is an answer, a positive answer, to the cry of “who is able to stand?”  And the answer is this:  To escape from the wrath of the Lamb, do not run away from Him, but instead turn and run to Him!  Run to the Lamb, to the One who comes to judge the living and the dead!  Run to Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood!  (Revelation 1:5.)  Run to the Lamb who was slain so that by His death we might have life!  It is Jesus, 1 Thessalonians 1:10 tells us, it is Jesus Christ who delivers us from the wrath to come!  When we come to Him in faith, having been sealed with the promises of His covenant, then we may be sure that we will not face His wrath but His salvation.  For He suffered the agony of the cross, He hung there at a time when the sun turned to darkness and the earth quaked as God the Father poured out upon Him His wrath against the sin of the whole human race.  Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, He alone could stand before the wrath of God to make atonement for sin, and He did so by drinking the cup of God’s wrath so that in Him we might have salvation!  That is what God’s Word tells us in Romans 5:8-10.

“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”

Who then can stand in the day of judgment?  You can, and so can I!  But only when we are in Christ Jesus.  Only when we are sealed with His righteousness.  Only when we are a part of that great multitude mentioned in Revelation 7:9, a multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne, clothed in white robes and saying with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 

By all means be warned and warn others about the wrath that is to come.  For it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.  Be warned, and let there be a sense of urgency both for yourself and when you speak to others – particularly those who do not live as one reconciled to God.  But with the warning is also hope.  Let no one say, “there is no room for me for my sins are too great, my life too broken, the Lord would never turn His wrath away from me.”  But rather, run to the Lamb who was slain and seek your forgiveness and salvation in Him!  For now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation!  (2 Cor. 6:2.)

And when you are sealed in the blood of the Lamb, finding your hope and salvation in Him, then you may be sure that neither death nor life, nor things present, nor things to come – not even the wrath that is to come – is able to separate you from the love of God in Christ Jesus.  The nations that did not fear God cried out in terror, “Who is able to stand?”  But the good news I may preach to you today is that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved!  Run to the Lamb, for in Him you will be safe. 

Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Stephen 't Hart, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2013, Rev. Stephen 't Hart

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