Angelic Conflict – Court Officers, Sardis
Revelation Lesson #059
March 26, 2006
Father we are so grateful that we live in a nation that has the freedom where we can gather together to worship You and can gather together to study Your Word and work out the implications of all that is taught in Your Word. Father, we thank You that we have this church and this congregation and these folks that desire to know You and to know Your Word.
Father, we pray that as we worship You this morning in song and in teaching that You will be honored and glorified. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.
Last week we began Revelation 3:1 which begins, “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.” ’ ”
Now there are four things that are packed into that verse. It orients us to this fifth letter to the seven churches that are in Asia Minor. It tells us that this particular one is addressed to the church in Sardis. It’s particularly interesting how the history and the background of the church in Sardis has a bearing on the spiritual condition of the church that is in this city of Sardis.
It also relates to the certain characteristics of the Lord Jesus Christ as exemplified in the statement, “He who has the seven spirits and the seven stars.” And there is the first part of the commendation, but in this case it’s merely a condemnation of the church in Sardis. That’s one of two churches that have no statements of commendation.
So, we’ve looked at the address to the angels, which we looked at last time trying to understand why this is addressed to an angel and how we are to properly interpret that.
The second is the connection to the church at Sardis and the background of the church at Sardis. The third is the character reference to the Lord Jesus Christ and then fourth, the summary condemnation and how that relates to us. I take some time to go through these four things because there’s a lot involved. You can’t just jump in here and sort of jump to conclusions here because understanding why things are said the way they are and the background is important to understand the impact of this message for us today.
We are separated from these events by 2,000 years. We don’t know a lot about the church at Sardis. We don’t know who even lived there or ministered there. We know nothing about it other than what is contained in this brief note of condemnation.
The church at Sardis is the fifth of these seven letters written to seven congregations that are written to seven churches located in the western part of Turkey in the province of Asia Minor.
Now these cities are not that far apart as I’ve said. They are very close to one another and as we shall see, Sardis is only forty to fifty miles away from its neighbor. The basic culture in each of these cities is very similar.
Nearly every one has a Jewish presence, a Jewish synagogue. Nearly every one has a congregation that had been there for a while. Nearly every one of them was surrounded by all the pagan temples of the Greek religion, worshipping all the different gods and goddesses. They tended to emphasize the same ones.
Sardis had a temple to Artemis just as Ephesus did. There was also a huge presence and influence in the Cybele–Attis cult which had a cultural background toward mysticism. This dominated that part of the ancient world. Each of these congregations has a tremendous amount in common.
What these short evaluation statements are doing is highlighting basic trends, some negative, and some positive. As I pointed out two of them have nothing positive to say about the recipients and two of them have nothing negative to say about the recipients.
They are used as patterns and models for all congregations that dominate through the Church Age. It gives us as believers in the 21st century an opportunity to look at the kind of things that the Lord Jesus Christ will highlight, emphasize, and bring out at the Judgment Seat of Christ and eventually we’re all going to be standing before the Lord Jesus Christ at that Judgment Seat.
Slides 7, 8, and 9
Jesus Christ revealed Himself to the Apostle John when he was in exile during the persecution by the Emperor Domitian and John was sent to the Isle of Patmos. It was there one day on a Sunday morning that suddenly John heard the loud voice and a trumpet and he turned and saw the Lord Jesus Christ.
It was at that time the Lord revealed Himself. As John saw the Lord he described what he saw and the various ways in which the risen Lord Jesus Christ appeared to him. Then he was commissioned by the Lord Jesus Christ to record what he had seen, that is the past events on the Isle of Patmos (Revelation chapter one), the things that are (things that are operational in this present Church Age covering these seven letters to seven churches in Revelation chapters two and three), and then the things that shall be (events of the future that don’t begin to take place until after the church is raptured to go to be with the Lord in the air). After that the Tribulation will begin.
We began last time just looking at a few different things. The first had to do with the role of angels in the Bible. We started off by looking how the angelic rebellion flows behind all of human history. Human history is directly related in the Scripture to this angelic revolt in Eternity Past, prior to at least the restoration of the planet in Genesis 1:2 through the end of Genesis chapter one.
Human history is related to that angelic rebellion. So, angels throughout history have a particular role that they play in relation to the outworking of God’s plan. It is apparent from Scripture that something took place postponing the full execution of God’s sentence on the angels.
Lucifer fell and led a third of the angels in revolt against God. Matthew 25:41 states that the Lake of Fire has already been prepared. That’s the perfect tense of the verb indicating a completed action, a perfect tense of the verb indicating a completed action in past time and the present existence of the Lake of Fire. It’s there and it’s in existence so why aren’t the devil and his angels in the Lake of Fire?
The Scripture just gives hints of what seems to be going on here, that Satan has challenged God. That’s what Satan means, an accuser. It is a legal term taken out of the courtroom of the ancient world and Satan is challenging God’s verdict. He challenges God in a number of ways.
They all can be summarized but he’s challenging God’s character, God’s love, and has God really given him, Satan, what he can do, on the basis of his own mentality, own talents, own ability? He’s claiming he can run things as well as God can.
So, God is demonstrating throughout the history of mankind that a creature, no matter how brilliant or capable they are, that no creature, no angel, no man, can do what only God can do. Therefore, the only way there can be stability and happiness in life is for the creature to be completely dependent upon the Creator. That’s the background.
We saw that there is the fall of Lucifer back in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28. This trial of the fallen angels is where they’re condemned to an eternity in the Lake of Fire and then a period of angelic observation during the present appeal trial. Eventually there will be an end to evil and an end to this rebellion and Satan and all of the fallen angels are cast into the Lake of Fire at the end of the Millennial Kingdom.
When we come to this section and why these are addressed to the churches we realize that the Lord Jesus Christ revealed the entirety of the Book of Revelation to John on the Isle of Patmos. John was told not to just send one letter to his congregation, but he was to make seven copies and send an entire copy including all seven letters to each congregation. So, it is addressed to John but it is also addressed to these angelic witnesses whose role it is to function sort of like a modern court reporter might function in that they’re keeping a record and recording the evaluation of the Lord Jesus Christ to each congregation and showing that He is fair and just the way He deals with the congregation.
They’re also functioning like a federal marshal would function as an officer of the court in executing the mandates of the court in bringing witnesses to the court and arresting those who have violated the law. It’s a combination of various things we have carried out by various court officers, so the angels seem to function in Scripture in this way.
We went back and we did a word study. We saw that the word angel which in some cases means messenger, either the Greek word ANGELOS or the Hebrew counterpart malak means someone who is carrying out communication from someone else. In the Bible the use of this word to describe a human messenger is very rare. In the New Testament there are only six times that the word ANGELOS is used to describe a human messenger. Three of those are in Matthew, Mark, and Luke and they’re all related to a quote from Malachi referring to John the Baptist as a messenger who would come before the Messiah.
So, we see in terms of a word study ANGELOS has a primary meaning of a messenger. Furthermore, when we get into the Book of Revelation, the word is used sixty-seven times, a third of its uses in the entire New Testament. Of these sixty-seven uses only eight, the seven at the beginning of these short epistles plus there’s one reference at the end of chapter one. These eight uses are in doubt.
If you look at the preponderance of uses in the New Testament it never refers to a human being except one time when it is referring to a prophet as a messenger. It’s never used to refer to a pastor, not in biblical literature or in extra-biblical literature. So, if we’re going to say this is a pastor you have to have strong, compelling evidence from the text.
If you’re going to say it’s a human messenger you also have to have strong, compelling evidence from the text. If you can come up with an understanding of why it would be an angel, then that fits and preserves the lexical integrity of this particular word. The reason I make a point out of all of this is that you’ll read in various things, commentaries, and you may hear other pastors speak and they’ll refer to this.
It’s a dominant view that this is either a pastor or a human messenger. That’s because very few have ever tried to plug it in to the overall function of angels in the Book of Revelation and in the Bible and try to see that it could be a legitimate use as an angel within the structure of the angelic conflict.
Matthew 11:10 is the verse I mentioned that talks about John the Baptist, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face. Who will prepare Your way before You.” It’s not even referring to him as a prophetic messenger. It’s simply that he was announcing that the Messiah is coming. He’s about to be here. That’s not even necessarily a prophetic message. We have to be careful with this.
The second thing we saw as we went through the angelic conflict is that God is demonstrating to the angels various things that they seem to be able to learn only from us.
We saw passages such as 1 Corinthians 4:9 where Paul says, “God has displayed us, the apostles, for we have been made a spectacle to the world both to angels and to men.” We are, as it were, in a cosmic stadium and in the stands are the angels watching us and watching how we respond to God’s grace and how we disobey Him and how we obey Him and how God deals with us.
We are, as it were, a visible testimony and witnesses to God’s character, which of course has been challenged by Satan.
Furthermore, they learn things from us. At the end of 1 Peter 1:12 it talks about the things that we do or the things the “angels long to look into”. They desire to look into. They are learning things about God and about us that they couldn’t learn any other way.
1 Timothy 5:21, Paul charges or commissions Timothy in his ministry, “Before God and the Lord Jesus Christ and the elect angels …” The angels are witnesses. This fits in the entire Old Testament pattern that the angels are witnessing. Moses called upon Heaven and earth to witness the Jews’ obedience to the Mosaic Law.
We saw that this is part of their functions in various other passages. They have various operations related to carrying out God’s Word. This was the third thing we looked at last time, how the angels operate throughout the Bible.
We went through their operations from Genesis to Revelation last time and showed that they announced the birth of the Messiah and they ministered to the Lord Jesus Christ at His death, His burial, and His resurrection. They function within a broader context of the outworking of God’s plan and the provision of blessing.
Angels are used in the administration of God’s judgment in history as well as God’s blessings in history. A key passage is found in Galatians 3:19 that the angels were present when God gave the Law. The Law was ordained through angels.
“Ordained” is an interesting word there. What does it mean? There’s a similar word used in Acts 7:53 that the Jews received the Law by the direction of the angels. What you have is a verb DIATASSO in Galatians 3:19 and in Acts 7:53 we have the noun form of that DIATAGE. Both of these refer to something that is put into proper order or arrangement. It refers to giving detailed instructions that must be done.
There’s another element to this word that is brought out in Liddel, Scott, Jones’ Dictionary of Classical Greek. That is that this word was frequently used in legal documents in the ancient world. What I discovered since last time is that there is a cognate word based on DIATASSO. That “t” changes to a “theta, th” and you have another noun form, DIATHEKE. That is the Greek word for covenant. This word DIATASSO is directly related to a covenant which is a legal contract.
The fact that the angels were there when the Law was proclaimed is all legal terminology. They are functioning again as legal witnesses to the signing and the initiation of a contract. This is the same kind of thing that you see at the end of Deuteronomy when Moses is reaffirming and restating the Law to people when he says, “I call upon the heavens and the earth.”
He’s not calling upon the impersonal bodies of matter in outward space, the planets and stars. He’s talking about the inhabitants of the heavens, the angels, and the inhabitants of the earth. He’s saying that all of God’s creatures are witnesses of this contract and how it will be worked out faithfully by God in human history.
Angels function in this particular manner.
Furthermore, in Daniel we saw that Daniel refers to the angelic watchers, that they observe history and they are used by God in moving certain things along in history. We don’t see them. They’re an invisible influence. We don’t go out and say, “Oh, such and such happened so it must be angels.”
We don’t know. It’s invisible but we do know that angels are involved. We don’t see it and when people start to speculate on it, it can produce some really strange stuff. I remember years ago someone gave me a book called Angels on Assignment. It was all about how someone’s wife was seeing angels involved in all sorts of things. You always see this stuff especially in more charismatic literature.
There were a couple of books that came out in the late 80s. Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti and This Present Darkness. These were a couple of novels that he wrote. They were very popular and sold millions and millions of copies. They were basically fictional accounts of spiritual warfare. He could see the angels and all that they were doing but it’s all speculation. It’s not very theological. A lot of people get sucked in because they think it’s just fiction, but fiction is a tremendous tool through teaching anything.
There are all kind of examples one could go to biblically. Just look at the parables. Jesus using parables was fiction in order to make certain points. Aesop’s Fables are the same kind of thing. You have fictional stories that are designed to teach and communicate values, morals, worldview, and things of that nature. So, this kind of stuff can be very dangerous.
I remember I was at Dallas Seminary when Peretti’s books came out in the late 80s. I would run into people on campus who had just read the books who would say, “Isn’t that wonderful? I just learned so much about prayer.” Oh, so you’re a charismatic now?
They would answer, “No, no, no.” Well that’s the whole theology of prayer that’s presented in the book, that you have to pray or the angels can’t work. Is that what you believe? If you don’t, tell me exactly what you learned biblically from these books.
I was amazed at how much people believed this. I’m talking about people with PhDs who put their brain in neutral when they were talking about a fictional account. They just absorbed all kinds of bad, poor, wrong theology. We have to be careful when we go to these passages in the Old Testament and New Testament that teach that the angels are watching us. They are. That’s a reality, but just how they’re involved and what they do is not revealed in Scripture and we can’t go there. We can’t try to determine that because God has not revealed it to us.
That’s the background. We saw what the word means. We saw throughout the Bible the angelic conflict. Now what I want to do is stick it within the framework of Revelation.
What do angels do in the Book of Revelation? If we’re going to interpret this word “angel”, “to the angel in the church of Ephesus”, “the angel in the church of Smyrna”, “the angel in the church of Pergamum”, “the angel in the church of Thyatira”, then we should fit our understanding of that word within its usage in Revelation.
We need to see what angels do in the Book of Revelation. Are they functioning any differently from the angels in the rest of the Bible? Remember that Revelation is a book that is not written for the purpose of satisfying our curiosity about the future.
It’s not written to help you understand when God is going to come back and what’s going to happen in the Middle East and how does Islam fit into God’s plan for the future. All of that can be addressed secondarily but it is written to demonstrate that eventually God is going to judge sin and evil and bring all of this to a conclusion in human history.
The Book is about judgment. Jesus Christ is presented there in Revelation, this vision to John, He is carrying a long broadsword which is a picture of judgment. His white robe is a picture of a judge. The nuances being brought out is of how He appears in the first chapter as that of a judge coming to bring judgment.
These seven letters are written as evaluation statements. They’re not written to teach principles of the Christian life like Ephesians or Romans or 1 Corinthians. They are written to evaluate or judge these congregations. So how does that fit into the Book of Revelation as a whole?
If we move on to Revelation four and five, those two chapters together give us a vision into the Throne of God. What we see there is these angels, which are different representations of the angels, are around the Throne of God. They are oriented to one issue and that has to do with the scroll that is being presented and who is worthy to take the scroll.
This is the question that is raised in Revelation 5:2. John says, “Then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, ‘Who is worthy to open the scroll and to loose its seals?’ ”
The loosening of the seals is the beginning of those final judgments in the Book of Revelation. There are three series of judgments, seven judgments in each series. The first is the seal judgments. The seven seal judgments contain seven trumpet judgments. The seven trumpet judgments contain seven bowl judgments. So, if you can just remember seal, trumpet, and bowl, 7-7-7, you’ve got it. That’s the guts of Revelation. It’s these three series of judgments that God unfolds during the Tribulation period.
This scroll is the title deed of the planet, as it were. Before the Lord Jesus Christ can come back and take ownership of the planet and establish His kingdom there has to be a judgment purification of the planet from sin and evil. The angel is asking who is worthy to execute those judgments on the planet.
The answer is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the only one who is worthy because He is the Lamb who was slain and who has redeemed us to God. This is described in Revelation 5:9 because Jesus Christ is the Lamb of God who died on the Cross for our sins and paid the penalty for our sins. He is the one who redeemed us from our sins.
The reason the planet has been lost to the control of Satan and his angels is because of sin, so the planet itself must be redeemed. Not only are we redeemed as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, but the entire planet and human history has to also be redeemed.
In Romans 8, Paul says the planet is groaning today, suffering under the condemnation of sin. The redemptive work of the Lamb on the Cross is not merely human and individual. It is also historical and it has to do with all of the universe, the heavens and the earth.
The Lamb comes forward. He is the One who is qualified by virtue of His redemptive work on the Cross to bring about, carry out, these particular judgments.
The next picture we see of angels is angels before the Throne. Revelation 5:11, “Then I looked after the cry has gone forth of who is worthy.” The Lamb is the One who is worthy. Then, “I looked and heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures and the elders [the living creatures are like cherubs or seraphs]: the number of them was 10,000 times 10,000 and thousands and thousands [myriads upon myriads] and they cry out, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and riches and strength and honor and glory and blessing.’ ”
Seven things He is praised for but they are singing His praise. The next time we see angels is in Revelation 7:1 in the outworking of the Seal judgments. We come to an interlude between the sixth and the seventh seal judgments and John says, “After these things [these six seal judgments have been revealed] I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth holding the four winds of the earth that the winds should not blow on the earth or any sea of any tree.”
They are obviously in control of the meteorology of the planet. They’re not simply weather angels. Their function is not to control the weather. Their function is judgment here. In the outworking of divine judgment they’re in control of all elements of the planets.
We see they are holding back the four winds of the earth that the winds should not blow on the earth and this is to bring about a judgment upon the earth.
Another angel shows up in Revelation 7:2. John says, “I saw another angel descending from the East having the seal of the Living God and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it was granted to harm the earth and the seas and he said, ‘Don’t harm those to whom I’m getting ready to seal.’ ”
He seals 144,000 who aren’t the Jehovah’s Witnesses, they’re not even down at the Kingdom Hall, and they’re not the Mormons. They are 12,000 Jews from each of the 12 tribes of Israel. We hear people say, “Well, who knows who the 12 tribes are? Don’t we have 10 lost tribes?”
They may be unidentifiable by you but the omniscient God can identify every descendant of every Jewish tribe. He will have 12,000 (not 12,001 or 11,999) from each of those 12 tribes. Those 144,000 will be given a specific mission during the Tribulation to take the gospel throughout the world but specifically they will be going to Israel.
They will be sealed so nothing can harm them. None of these judgments that come to pass during the Tribulation, none of the attacks from the antichrist will harm the 144,000. This angel seals them, which also indicates, perhaps, angelic protection throughout the Tribulation period.
Let’s look at Revelation 7:1l, “Then all the angels stood around the throne and the elders and the four living creatures fell on their faces before the throne and worshipped God.” Why are they worshipping God? Because they are attributing honor and power and glory to Him because He is carrying out judgment.
Again, we see the angels’ role in worship within the framework of the outworking of judgment on the planet.
In Revelation 8 we see seven angels standing before God who were given the seven trumpets that relate to the announcing of the seven trumpet judgments. In Revelation 8:3, “And then another angel having a golden censer came and stood at the altar.” He fills that censer with incense which represents the prayers of the saints.
What are the saints praying for? They’re praying for God to finally bring about and complete judgment of sin and evil and rebellion on the planet. These are not just intercessory prayers, but they are prayers related to judgment. He pours it out upon the earth, which is the divine answer to prayer and it produces noises, thunderings, lightenings, and earthquakes.
In Revelation 8:6 and following the seven angels have the seven trumpets and they prepare to sound them and to announce each of these judgments. After the first four the last three are called the “woe” judgments because they are so much worse than the first four trumpet judgments. There is an angel that flies around the planet and he announces the coming of these three last judgments, these woe judgments.
In Revelation 9 we see that the fifth trumpet judgment involves a star and an angel that falls from Heaven to earth and this angel opens the abyss. This releases an imprisoned group of demons that have been in prison and awaiting this particular moment in history so they can come forth and come under Satan’s bidding in order to inflict all sorts of horrors upon the human race. This is a form of divine judgment.
In Revelation 9:13 and following we see the sixth angel. This is the sixth trumpet judgment that takes place and he is told to release the four angels that are bound at the Great River Euphrates. These angels are released and their judgment kills a third of mankind.
At this point in the Tribulation half of the human race is killed in terms of divine judgment. Right now we have what? Six or seven billion people on the planet? If this were to begin now, then in the next four years 3 to 3½ billion people would be killed. We think things are rough just announcing that 12 US soldiers were killed in an IUD attack in Baghdad yesterday. This is going to be a million a day or more. This is going to be just a horrendous event, like September 11 five or six times a day in different places on the earth.
It’s going to be caused from nature problems, health judgments, and so horrendous that people will not be able to keep up with what God is doing for judging the planet for their rejection of Him.
In chapter 10 it says that a mighty angel with a small book announces another series of judgments. In Revelation 10:1–4 it says, “I saw still another mighty angel coming down from heaven clothed with a cloud and a rainbow was on his head, his face was like the sun, his feet like pillars of fire. He had a little book open in his hand and he set his right foot on the sea and his left foot on the land and he cried with a loud voice as when a lion roars. When he cried out seven thunders uttered their voices. And when the seven thunders uttered their voices,” John was about to write but he heard a voice from Heaven saying to seal up the things which the seven thunders utter.
So he announces another level of judgment.
In chapter 11 the seventh angel sounds his judgment and that judgment begins which unveils and opens up to be the last series of judgments, the seven bowl judgments.
In Revelation 12:7 there’s a war in the heavens between Michael, the archangel and his angels, and the dragon and his angels. The dragon is that serpent of old, the devil. Michael defeats the angels of Satan and they are cast out of Heaven in verse 9, “The devil and his angels are cast out of heaven and they land on the planet.” Plop!
They’re visible then. They’re not visible today. This is going to be a really bizarre period. It almost sounds like science fiction, but what God is doing is He’s bringing to culmination everything that’s been involved in terms of the angelic conflict in that sphere and its outworking in human history. It’s at the Tribulation that these two arenas, the invisible to us now and the visible merge together right toward the end of the Tribulation for the final outworking of God’s judgment.
In chapter 14 John says in verse 6 that another angel flies through Heaven. This angel is proclaiming the gospel. Not only do you have men proclaiming the gospel during the Tribulation period, but you have an angelic announcement of the gospel. Millions of people are going to be saved during the Tribulation. It’s not merely a period of horrible judgment but it’s grace before judgment. Millions will be saved as a result of these announcements.
John in Revelation 14:8 sees another angel that announces the doom of Babylon. In verse 9 he mentions a third angel who warns mankind about taking the “mark of the beast”. In verse 15 another angel comes out of the Temple imploring God, the One who is on the cloud, to thrust in His sickle and reap, which is a picture of divine judgment.
In Revelation 14:17 yet another angel comes out of the Temple with a sharp sickle to bring about those judgments. In verse 18 even another angel comes out from the altar with power over fire and cries to him to thrust in the sharp sickle. In verse 19 this angel thrusts in the sharp sickle and executes judgment.
The point again and again is to see that the role of the angels in the Tribulation is to bring about and to execute judgment on planet earth that God calls for.
In Revelation 15:1 the seven angels with the seven last plagues which are the bowl judgments come forward. These seven angels initiate these judgments. These bowls are filled with the wrath of God according to verse 7 but you see you have three different wraths: the wrath of the Lamb in Revelation 6, the wrath of Satan because He is angry and in one sense this is his last temper tantrum in history to try to pull off his attempt to control the planet, and then the final wrath of God, which brings all judgment to conclusion.
In Revelation 16:1 the seven angels are commanded to pour out their bowls. In Revelation 17:1 one of the angels takes John to witness the destruction of the woman and the beast in chapter 17. This is the scarlet woman and the beast. The woman who rides the beast is a picture of the antichrist’s kingdom at the end of history.
Some people think that has something to do with the present European Economic Union because they have taken a very ancient symbol of Europa riding a bull as a symbol for the EEU. So what is the image of Europa riding a bull? It’s a woman riding a beast, surrounded by stars in the symbol for the EEU community. Some people speculate that the EEU is part of the future revived Roman Empire. It’s got a lot more than 10 nations in it so it’s really hard to figure out how it fits the ten-nation confederacy. It’s all speculation.
It’s interesting how ancient symbols are being revived today as pictures of present political alliances.
In chapter 18 another angel with great authority announces the fall of Babylon. In Revelation 19:17 an angel announces a gathering of the final armies to announce the fall of Babylon. “Babylon the great. How you have fallen.” This is the headquarters of the antichrist, the beast of Revelation. There’s great debate whether this is the literal Babylon or Babylon just used in a figurative sense in the Book of Revelation.
I am inclined to the view that it a literal use of the word. We have to be consistent in our interpretation of Scripture and Babylon, if you go back to Isaiah 13 and 14 which describes at that time the fall and collapse of Babylon, all of that has not yet transpired. It talks about how God will judge Babylon and no one would ever live there again. Yet there have been scholars like Charlie Dyer of Dallas Seminary who is now Academic Dean at Moody Bible Institute, who has done twenty-five years of investigation over there. There has never been a period when there weren’t settlements on that site of Babylon.
Even today there are three different villages that inhabit that area. Isaiah 13 says that after God judges it there will never be another human habitation there again. That prophecy has never been really fulfilled, but it will take place and be fulfilled in Revelation 19.
In Revelation 20, after the battle of Armageddon, an angel is given a key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand. He is to execute that judgment and to put Satan into the bottomless pit where he is chained for a thousand years.
The next time we see an angel is in Revelation 21:9 where this angel is revealing the future to John and shows him the bride, the Lamb’s wife. In Revelation 22:6 information is communicated to John by an angel and in Revelation 22:16 Jesus sends His angel to communicate with John.
Those last three appearances of angels in the book relate to their communication of doctrine and information to the Apostle John.
That’s a quick run-through about angels in the Book of Revelation. But what we see is the predominant view of the way angels are portrayed in Revelation—to show that they are instruments of divine judgment. That fits within the entire pattern which we saw last week in the Bible. Angels are used by God to bring about His judgments on mankind as well as to bring about blessing on mankind. They are officers of the heavenly court and they record these events in human history.
As Satan and the fallen angels bring their challenge that God is not fair and how could a just and loving God send His creatures to a Lake of Fire and how could He condemn them because He’s never given them an opportunity to show what they can do, these charges are brought against God. God brings out His record keepers, the angels, of how God works in human history and how He is perfectly just and righteous in His outworking of His plan among the angels and among the churches, especially even during the Church Age.
This is a period when angels are not visible and demons are not visible and God is no longer revealing Himself in dreams and visions to mankind. Prophets are not operative today. There’s no new special revelation. This is a unique time in history when the test of the believer today is walk by faith and not by sight.
The evaluation of all these congregations in Revelation 2 and 3 is related to how well they are living out their spiritual life on the basis of the provision God has given to us through His Word and through God the Holy Spirit, who is the One who empowers us and strengthens us to live the Christian life.
As the Holy Spirit works in us and through us as we walk by means of the Spirit (Galatians 5:17) the Holy Spirit produces what Paul describes as the fruit of the Spirit. That is character and character transformation takes place as fallen creatures who operate on arrogance to those who operate on the power of God the Holy Spirit. He transforms us inwardly so we reflect the person and the character of the Lord Jesus Christ.
That’s the foundation for all of these evaluations that we find in Revelation 2 and 3. So there is an evaluation statement in verse 1, “I know your works [your production].”
We’ll come back next time and will move into the background of this particular letter. We’ve covered the issue of the angels and next time we’ll look at Sardis. He knows our works and He is able to evaluate us.
Next time we’ll look at Sardis and its background and how that affects the congregation and how the culture, even the history, affected the spiritual orientation of the believer.
That gives us a lot to think about in terms of our own history and our own culture and how that affects the strengths and the weaknesses of how we as Americans operate even in our Christianity.
“Father, we do thank You that we have this chance to gather together, this chance to study Your Word and the opportunity to realize that even in our lives today this ultimately will lead to a future judgment, a future evaluation.
“Father we pray if there’s anyone here who is unsure of their salvation or uncertain of their eternal destiny that they would take this opportunity to make that both sure and certain. All you need to do is put your faith alone in Christ alone. If you are trusting Jesus Christ and His complete work on the Cross for your eternal salvation, then you have eternal life.
“You don’t need to trust anything else. Jesus Christ is sufficient. It’s not a matter of trusting in Jesus and morality, Jesus and going to church, Jesus and ritual. Nothing else is necessary. Jesus Christ paid the price. He paid it in full so that we could have eternal life.
“Scripture says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
“Father we pray you will challenge us on the things we have studied this morning. We pray that You would drive them home, deep into our thinking, that the Holy Spirit may use it to transform our lives. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.”