KEY TEXT: Revelation 19:1-5 After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, "Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God, for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants." Once more they cried out, "Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever." And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, "Amen. Hallelujah!" And from the throne came a voice saying, "Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great."
KEY THOT: The destruction of the Great Harlot city will be a revelation of God's salvation, glory, power and justice. God cannot allow evil to be perpetuated on His planet Earth without doing something about it, especially the evil of spilling the blood of His servants. And the cry in heaven around the throne is not the cry of horror but of jubilation and celebration of God's salvation, glory and power. In our politically correct world, this seems like blasphemy and hate, but this is how God is portrayed: "Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great!" The God that the world's media prefer is One that is benign and harmless, ever so tolerant of evil and never angry with sinners. Such a God elicits no fear--and also no respect either. But this is not and never has been the God of the Bible. God treats sin seriously--serious enough to sacrifice His own Son to die for our sins. The Cross is a revelation of the mystery of God's kindness and severity against sin in one act.
The lack of fear of God has led to rampant sin, both inside and outside the church. In the NT church, sin is never tolerated but judged immediately. When Ananias and his wife Sapphira lied about their giving, God struck both of them dead. This resulted in a holy fear and respect for the name of Jesus: "And great fear came upon all who heard of these things" (vv. 5,11). The reason why judgment came so immediately is because of the holy Presence of Jesus in the church through His Spirit. God's judgment came from within the church, like in the OT when the fire that killed Aaron's two sons came out of the Holy of Holies: "Now Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, each took his censer and put fire in it and laid incense on it and offered unauthorized fire before the Lord, which he had not commanded them. And fire came out from before the Lord and consumed them, and they died before the Lord (Leviticus 10:1-2).
But in the final hours before Jesus' return, the fire that comes out of God's presence will consume an entire city, Babylon, where the lust for money and sex is openly displayed and flaunted in the 3M's of media, movies and music. But God's patience is not limitless. Only heart-felt and genuine repentance (nowadays considered "hate speech" in our hyper-grace culture) will turn away God's wrath. Without repentance, there will be no grace. Grace does not dispense with repentance but requires it so we may receive God's mercy and inherit His kingdom. His kingdom is reserved for holy people, cleansed by the Blood of Jesus and filled with His Holy Spirit. In writing to the churches of Galatia, Paul reiterates his warning: "Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19-21).
Some preachers have argued that focusing too much on sin and repentance makes us sin-conscious and therefore will encourage more sins. If that is the case, then Paul is guilty too, for he is constantly warning his readers in all his letters to flee from sins. If we do not talk about sin and repentance, we create a culture of impunity and apathy about sin and about the holiness of God that is totally unbiblical. One way we know we have fallen into a hyper-grace culture is our aversion and refusal to study and preach from some books of the Bible, viz, James, Hebrews and Revelation because the message of these books does not gel with our narrative of a God who doesn't get angry with sins anymore. In fact, instead of shouting "Hallelujah!" in victory when Babylon is destroyed, we will be recoiling in horror, crying out loud, "Hah? How can this be! Get thee behind me Satan!"
Soft-pedaling sins will not make a strong church. Holiness must remain the hallmark of a true church of Jesus Christ. Only where holiness is promoted that true agape-love can be found. God's love is holy love. And holy love is both kind and severe. This is not a self-contradiction in God but the self-identity of God. Even Paul, the champion of God's grace strongly emphasizes this twin attribute of God: "So do not become proud, but stand in awe. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off" (Romans 11:20-22).
Abba-Father, we rejoice in Your love in our lives, but we will also rejoice over Your judgment poured out against sinners who refuse Your grace and continue in sins. We ask that You will also guard Your preachers from ignoring the severity of God because it is no longer popular to preach it. Amen.