And a third angel followed them, calling out in a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and its image, and receives its mark on his forehead or on his hand,
I. WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN?
1. It seems to mean that the ungodly shall be punished with incessant and unspeakable torments in hell fire, and that forever and ever. This is the doctrine that has been deduced frown this passage again and again. It is one of the buttresses of the popular theology. It is always quoted in support of this doctrine, and is regarded as one of the chief of the proof texts. But if it do teach this, we ask:
(1) Would not the language be more clear? Who certainly knows what the two beasts, the first and second, stand for? Who can do more than guess, with more or less of probability, what St. John meant by them; much less what it was intended we, in our day, should understand by them? And what is "the mark of the beast "? and how do men receive it "in their forehead," or their "hand"? We may think we understand all this. But can any one be sure? But consequences so awful as are threatened here would not be told of in language so ambiguous. If we today be threatened with such doom, the offences that incur it will surely be set forth in words unmistakably plain, and not such as we find here.
(2) May not temporal judgments be so described? May not the same language be used for something quite different from what it is said this means? Yes, for Isaiah thus speaks of Edom (Isaiah 34:8-14): "The smoke thereof shall go up forever." The temporal judgments that came upon Edom are thus described. And so, in Revelation 18., we have word for word the fulfilment on earth, not in Gehenna, of the threatenings we are now considering (cf. vers. 9, 15, 18). Why, then, may not temporal judgments be what are meant here?
(3) Why, in the closing vision of this book, are death, hell, and the lake of fire, pain, sorrow, death, and all such things, declared to have "passed away" and to be "no more" (cf. Revelation 21.)? All these things have not been transferred to some other planet, to defile its surface and darken its heavens. They have "passed away," he alone abiding who "doeth the will of God."
(4) Why is the language of the Bible so constantly of such a kind as to lend the strongest colour to the belief that death, destruction, perishing not a never ending existence in suffering - is the doom of the finally impenitent? That this is so can hardly be denied. The passage before us is, probably, the only one which seems to teach everlasting suffering.
(5) And, if it were a Divine doctrine, would it not, like all other Divine doctrines, "commend itself to every man's conscience in the sight of God"? The truth that St. Paul preached did so commend itself. If this be part of it, why does it not also so commend itself? It is notorious that it does not. Conscience revolts against it, and insistence upon it has generated more unbelief and atheism than, perhaps, any other cause whatsoever. We, therefore, cannot believe that what this passage seems to many minds to mean, it actually does mean. But:
2. We note the following facts.
(1) The occasion of this threatening. Terrible persecution, when it was absolutely necessary to fortify and strengthen the minds of Christians with every consideration that would help them to be faithful under the dreadful trials that beset them.
(2) And in this way this threatening, and others like it (cf. Matthew 10.), were used, and were no small help to the steadying of the wavering will and the strengthening of the feeble heart. "The ancient Cyprian often strengthened his exhortations to steadfastness under bloody persecutions with this word."
(3) The fulfilment of this word (cf. Revelation 18, and parallels). Therefore, whilst not limiting it to temporal punishments:
3. We regard it as telling of that "everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord," which shall be the doom of all apostates and all who persist in rebellion against the Lord.
II. WHAT DOES IT TEACH? Amongst other lessons these:
1. The retribution of God upon unfaithful and wicked men is an awful reality.
2. That in the midst of temptation the remembrance of this will he a great help.
3. That it is the love of God which tells us the truth.
4. That they are fools and self destroyed who will not "come unto" Christ that they "might have life." - S. C.
And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image.I. SOUL PROSTITUTION.
1. The prostitution of the soul to wrong is an alarming crime.
2. The prostitution of the soul to wrong always incurs lamentable suffering. The metaphors here are borrowed from the sacred books of the Hebrew people, and they convey the idea of suffering of an alarming kind, suggesting —(1) A consciousness of Divine antagonism. "Wine of the wrath of God." In the sense of malignant passion there is no wrath in Him who is love. But it is a psychological fact that the man who suffers because he has done another an injury, has a consciousness that the one he has offended is angry with him, and this consciousness is the chief element in his suffering.(2) A sense of intense agony. "Shall be tormented with fire and brimstone." Brimstone adds intensity to the heat and fury to the flames of fire. "My punishment is greater than I can bear," said Cain. A guilty conscience has its Tartarus or Gehenna within itself.(3) A state of constant restlessness. "They have no rest day nor (and) night." There is no rest in sin. "The wicked are like the troubled sea."
II. SOUL LOYALTY. "Here is the patience of the saints." What is patience? It is not insensibility. Some people are lauded for their patience who should be denounced for their stoicism and indifference. Patience implies at least two things.(1) The existence of trials. Patience lives only in difficulty and danger, in storms and tempests.(2) The highest mental power. Man's highest power of mind is seen not in unsurpassed mechanical inventions, or the sublimest productions of art, not in the most baffling and confounding strategies of bloody war, but in the successful effort to govern all the impulses and master all the boisterous passions of the human soul.
(D. Thomas, D. D.)
The smoke of theirI. WE AFFIRM THERE IS A HELL; PUNISHMENTS FINITE IN DEGREE, BUT INFINITE IN DURATION.
2. Scripture clearly affirms that the punishment of the damned shall not consist of annihilation, but of real and sensible pain (Matthew 26:24; Matthew 11:24). Scripture-images of hell, which are many, will not allow us to confine future punishment to annihilation. It is a worm, a fire, a darkness; they are chains — weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.
II. IF THE DOCTRINE OF ETERNAL PUNISHMENT IMPLY A CONTRADICTION, IT MUST EITHER REGARD MAN, THE SUFFERER OF THE PAIN, OR GOD, WHO THREATENS TO INFLICT IT.
1. The nature of man hath nothing incongruous with that degree and duration of punishment of which we speak.
2. Let us attend now to objections taken from the nature of God. A man, who opposeth our doctrine, reasons in this manner. Which way soever I consider a Being supremely perfect, I cannot persuade myself that He will expose His creatures to eternal torments. All His perfections secure me from such terrors as this doctrine seems to inspire. In short, when I consider God under the idea of an equitable legislator, I cannot comprehend how sins committed in a finite period can deserve an infinite punishment.(1) Observe this general truth. It is not probable God would threaten mankind with a punishment, the infliction of which would be incompatible with His perfections.(2) Take each part of the objection drawn from the attributes of God, and said to destroy our doctrine, and consider it separately. The argument taken from the liberty of God would carry us from error to error, and from one absurdity to another. For, if God be free to relax any part of the punishment denounced, He is equally free to relax the whole. The difficulty taken from the goodness of God vanisheth when we rectify popular notions of this excellence of the Divine nature. Goodness in men is a virtue of constitution which makes them suffer when they see their fellow creatures in misery, and which excites them to relieve them. In God it is a perfection independent in its origin, free in its execution, and always restrained by laws of inviolable equity and exact severity. Justice is not incompatible with eternal punishment. It is not to be granted that a sin committed in a limited time ought not to be punished through an infinite duration. It is not the length of time employed in committing a crime that determines the degree and the duration of its punishment, it is the turpitude and atrociousness of it. The justice of God, far from opposing the punishment of the impenitent, requires it. Were we to examine in this manner each part of the objection opposed against our doctrine, we should open a second source of solutions to answer it.(3) The doctrine of degrees of punishment affords us a third. There is an extreme difference between a heathen and a Jew; there is an extreme distance between a Jew and a Christian; and a greater still between a Christian and a heathen. The gospel-rule is, "Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required." Take this principle which Scripture establisheth in the clearest manner; press home all its consequences; extend it as far as it can be carried; give scope even to your imagination till the punishments which such and such persons suffer in hell are reduced to a degree that may serve to solve the difficulty of the doctrine of their eternity; whatever system ye adopt on this article, I will even venture to say whatever difficulty ye may meet with in following it, it will be always more reasonable, I think, to make of one doctrine clearly revealed a clue to guide through the difficulties of another doctrine clearly revealed too, than rashly to deny the formal decisions of Scripture. I mean to say, it would be more rational to stretch the doctrine of degrees too far, if I may venture to speak so, than to deny that of their eternity.(4) The fourth source of solutions is a maxim from which a divine ought never to depart, and which we wish particularly to inculcate among those who extend the operations of reason too far in matters of religion. Our maxim is this. We know, indeed, in general, what are the attributes of God, but we are extremely ignorant of their sphere, we cannot determine how far they extend. We know, in general, God is free, He is just, He is merciful. But we are too ignorant to determine how far these perfections must go, because the infinity of them absorbs the capacity of our minds. Apply this to our subject. The idea of hell seems to you repugnant to the attributes of God, you cannot comprehend how a just God can punish finite sins with infinite pain; how a merciful God can abandon His creature to eternal miseries. Your difficulties have some probability, I grant. Your reasons, I allow, seem well grounded. But dost thou remember the attributes of God are infinite? Remember, thy knowledge is finite. You think future punishment inconsistent with the attributes of God, but your notion of inconsistence ought to vanish at the appearance of Scripture-light.
III. OBSERVE THE QUALITY AND THE DURATION OF THE PUNISHMENTS OF HELL.
1. The quality of the punishments of hell is expressed in these terms — smoke, torment. These metaphorical terms include five ideas. Privation of heavenly happiness, sensation of pain, remorse of conscience, horror of society, increase of crime.
2. It remains only that we consider the length and duration of them. But by what means shall we describe these profound articles of contemplation? Can we number the innumerable and measure that which is beyond all mensuration? Can we make you comprehend the incomprehensible? And shall we amuse you with our imaginations?
PlacesBabylon, Mount Zion, Patmos
TopicsAngel, Anyone, Beast, Bow, Brow, Exclaiming, Follow, Followed, Forehead, Gives, Homage, Image, Loud, Mark, Messenger, Receive, Receives, Receiveth, Saying, Statue, Third, Voice, Wild, Worship, Worshipeth, Worshippeth, Worships
Outline1. The Lamb standing on Mount Zion with his company.
6. An angel preaches the gospel.
8. The fall of Babylon.
15. The harvest of the world.
20. The winepress of the wrath of God.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesRevelation 14:9
LibraryThe Approval of the Spirit
TEXT: "Yea, saith the Spirit."--Rev. 14:31. The world has had many notable galleries of art in which we have been enabled to study the beautiful landscape, to consider deeds of heroism which have made the past illustrious, in which we have also read the stories of saintly lives; but surpassing all these is the gallery of art in which we find the text. Humanly speaking John is the artist while he is an exile on the Island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea. The words he uses and the figures he presents …
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Letter Lii to Another Holy virgin.
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Appendix the Daughters of Jerusalem
Vanity of Human Glory.
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