Revive Our Hearts Podcast

This Is Not the End of the Story

Leslie Basham: Does it ever feel like the world is falling apart?—like extremism, terrorism, and divisiveness will never end? Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has an important reminder.

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: This is not the end of the story. Yes, we’re in a battle. Yes, it’s a cosmic battle. But we know the outcome. We know who wins! That’s why, when we’re in the midst of that battle and we feel like we’re caught in the crossfire, we need to keep our eyes on the end—on the outcome. That’s what will strengthen and encourage our hearts in the midst of the battle.

Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for Friday, April 26, 2019.

Today is the final day in a series called "Singing the Lord's Songs in a Foreign Land." Nancy’s been showing us how to cry out to the Lord when we’re living in a world that’s growing more and more hostile to the gospel.

Nancy: We’ve been talking through this difficult series about how to sing the songs of Zion while we’re still living in Babylon. This is a tough passage we’ve been looking at—Psalm 137—but I hope that it’s done for you what it’s done for me—to lift our eyes up from this earth (the city of man) into the heavenly Jerusalem (the city of God), and to see that our wise, sovereign God has plans. He hasn’t forsaken this planet. He’s not oblivious or aloof to the injustice that’s taking place in this world. And one day this God who is redeeming and making all things new will right all wrongs!

So, let’s read again this psalm of lament, this imprecatory psalm, where judgment is called down. Let’s talk today about the end—the rest of the story. In the first four verses we saw God’s people pining in Babylon, longing for Zion.

By the waters [or rivers] of Babylon, there we sat down and [we] wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres [our harps]. For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, "Sing us one of the songs of Zion!" How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land? (Ps. 137:1–4).

And then, verse 5 and 6, where God’s people pledge—they promise—never to forget to remember Jerusalem:

If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy!

So first the psalmist says, “Lord, search my heart—make sure I’m right; make sure my heart is in the right place. Let me experience consequences for my sins before I call upon You to bring consequences on other people for their sins.

And then we come to this last stanza, verses 7–9, where God’s people plead, they pray, for justice—for revenge against the enemies of God and the enemies of God’s people.

Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites the day of Jerusalem, how they said, "Lay it bare, lay it bare, down to its foundations! O daughter of Babylon [where these people had spent seventy years in captivity], doomed to be destroyed, blessed shall he be who repays you with what you have done to us! Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock!” (vv. 8–9).

And so we see the fate of Babylon, the city of man, the earthly city that Augustine talked about. The literal Babylon was doomed to be destroyed, but so was the spiritual Babylon—the mysterious Babylon that we’ll look at in Revelation in just a moment. The destroyer was to be destroyed.

Now, this was not vigilante justice or retribution. This is not God’s people taking the law into their own hands. This is asking God for just retribution. I want in this final session on this final paragraph to just make some reflections on divine judgment.

There are not really numbered points here, but I want us to just meditate for a few moments on this whole thing of divine judgment, and then we’ll take a look at the end of the story.

First, we see that we reap what we sow. That’s a principle of God’s Word. This is exactly what Babylon had done to Israel and to other nations. They had bashed their babies’ heads against rocks. And God says, “What you have sown, you will reap!” It’s important to remember as we see that people seem to get away with sin.

It’s also instructive, I think, to realize that God deals with both individuals and nations in judgment. God deals with people groups. God sometimes deals with families—with genealogical lines. But God deals with nations.

We have such an individualism today in our way of thinking about Christianity and culture. But all through the Scripture you see that God deals, of course, with people as individuals, but He also deals with nations. Nations that honor God, God will honor. Nations that despise God, that defy Him, that rebel against Him will be dealt with in divine judgment.

If we talk about God judging a nation like America—or any other nation—that is not to say that America is Israel. It's not the same. But God didn’t just deal with Israel. God dealt with Babylonians and Edomites and other nations, and God still is dealing with nations today. We need to realize that as we pray for our nation—whatever your nation may be.

And then we realize that God’s judgment is sometimes—it’s often—delayed. It doesn’t always come right away. One of the purposes in that is that God is giving people time to repent, so that when judgment does come, no one can say, “God, You didn’t give us a chance to repent.”

The Babylonians could have repented—they didn’t, they wouldn’t, they refused to. So God’s judgment may be delayed, but it will come. It is real. At some point—and only God knows when—when the cup of man’s sin is full and overflows. God holds that cup, and His patience will be exhausted, and His judgment will be final. There will be no more opportunity for repentance.

Now, you don’t hear a lot of this kind of teaching today. We don’t want to hear about judgment. We want to hear about sweetness and mercy and grace. But I want to tell you, the mercy and the grace of God is not precious if you don’t realize what He is saving you from.

The judgment of God is real, and when it is final, there will be no more opportunity for repentance. That’s why God’s Word says, “now is the day of salvation.” Repent now—whether you are an individual or a nation. Repent because God’s judgment is real! It may be delayed, but it will come. God’s judgment will be final.

God uses others as instruments of judgment on the ungodly, and as instruments of chastening on the godly. You can’t pick the instrument God will use; He determines that.

As I’ve been meditating on this thing of divine judgment, I’ve also realized, there are no innocent people ever born on this planet—except One! His name is Jesus. Every one of us has sinned, and every one of us deserves the wrath and the judgment of God. So we can’t just point the finger at the Babylonians. We always need to be saying, “God, what’s in my heart that needs to be dealt with?”

Now, those people who we think of as innocent—that is, the ones who are being oppressed, those who are being violated—let’s call them “innocent” people, but I want to put “innocent” in quotation marks, okay?

“Innocent” people may experience judgment along with those who are more responsible. The children of the wicked are impacted by the sins of their parents. And also, thank God, the children of the righteous are impacted by the godliness of their parents.

Their parents’ godliness can’t save them, but can provide a refuge where they can find faith in Christ. So, remember that our sins have consequences that impact people beyond ourselves.

And then, we realize that God will be glorified, and His people will be blessed in the judgment of the wicked. This is not something that’s secondary to God’s plan. God’s judgment brings glory to His holiness, to His righteousness, and to His saving plan that He has made available—so that we can escape His wrath. God’s judgment puts His holiness and His goodness and His faithfulness and His mercy and His greatness into stark relief!

Now, Babylon in the Scriptures, as we’ve said throughout this series, is a type of the anti-God world system. Babylon was powerful. It was wealthy, it was popular, it was the “in thing,” because they were so powerful.

But it was also characterized by pride, by greed, by sexual immorality. And Babylon, literal or symbolic, torments followers of God. This anti-God system torments those who follow the Lamb, who follow Christ, and that world system is backed by Satan himself. We have a cosmic battle going on here.

So, today, it often seems that the godless powers are winning. Am I right? And those godless powers may be nations, they may be governments or neighbors or individuals who are determined to undermine God’s rule and reign in the world. Or, they may just be those enemies of God working within our own hearts. That anti-God [attitude]: “I’ll have it my way!” Those enemies of God can sometimes find resting place in our own hearts.

Wherever they may be found, the enemies of God and His people will not have the final word. This is not the end of the story. Yes, we’re in a battle; yes, it’s a cosmic battle . . . but we know the outcome. We know who wins!

That’s why when we’re in midst of that battle—when we feel like we’re caught in the crossfire—we need to keep our eyes on the end, on the outcome. That’s what will strengthen and encourage our hearts when we’re in the midst of the battle.

We’ve been talking about two cities. There’s the earthly city, the city of man—Babylon, if you will. Then there’s the city of God—Zion, Jerusalem. The Scripture tells us about the outcome of both of these world systems. Both of these worldviews, both of these cities, have an outcome.

We read about the outcome of both in the last several chapters of the Bible: Revelation 17–22. I want to just read some excerpts from Revelation chapter 18, about the end outcome of the city of man—spiritual, mysterious Babylon.

We saw that Babylon is doomed to be destroyed, in Psalm 137. But I want you to read, with me, the story of its demolition. It’s an amazing story! Revelation 18, verse 1 (and I’m going to skip around a little bit here, but follow with me, if you can):

After this I saw another angel [now, this is yet to come] coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was made bright with his glory. And he called out with a mighty voice, "Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!” (vv. 1–2).

Does this sound like Psalm 137? “Daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed!”

Then I heard another voice from heaven saying, "Come out of her, my people, lest you take part in her sins, lest you share in her plagues; for her sins are heaped high as heaven, and God has remembered her iniquities” (vv. 4–5).

We saw that word three times in Psalm 137: “Remember!”

Pay her back as she herself has paid back others [same theme we’ve seen in this imprecatory Psalm 137, now in Revelation 18], and repay her double for her deeds; mix a double portion for her in the cup she mixed. [Let her drink the judgment she has poured out on others.] For this reason her plagues will come in a single day, death and mourning and famine, and she will be burned up with fire; for mighty is the Lord God who has judged her. And the kings of the earth, who committed sexual immorality and lived in luxury with her, will weep and wail over her when they see the smoke of her burning. They will stand far off, in fear of her torment, and say, "Alas! Alas! You great city, you mighty city, Babylon! For in a single [not day, but in a single what?] hour your judgment has come.

And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore . . . The merchants of these wares, who gained wealth from her, will stand far off, in fear of her torment, weeping and mourning aloud, "Alas, alas, for the great city that was clothed in fine linen, in purple and scarlet adorned with gold, with jewels, and with pearls! For in a single hour all this wealth has been laid waste. And all shipmasters and seafaring men, sailors and all whose trade is on the sea, stood far off and cried out as they saw the smoke of her burning, ‘What city was like the great city?’ And they threw dust on their heads as they wept and mourned, crying out, ‘Alas, alas, for the great city where all who had ships at sea grew rich by her wealth! For in a single hour she has been laid waste. Rejoice over her, O heaven . . .'" (vv. 6, 8–11, 15–20).

Now that’s a whole different tone, isn’t it? We’ve had the merchants and the people of the earth lamenting the doom and the destruction of Babylon. Why? Because with it went all their wealth. But here we have a whole different perspective—this perspective of the heavenly city. 

“Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” Then a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone and threw it into the sea, saying, "So will Babylon the great city be thrown down with violence, and will be found no more; . . ." And in her was found the blood of prophets and of saints, and of all who have been slain on earth (vv. 20–21, 24).

Fire, torment, weeping, mourning, destruction, devastation, riches, wealth, honor, respect—no more! And we sit here at home talking about, “What can be done about ISIS?” And people say, “It’s going to take years to root out this extreme Islamicism that seems to be taking over the world.”

And God says, “When I’m ready, I can do it in a day! No—it doesn’t take me a day; I can do it in an hour!” Now, we don’t long for the destruction, the judgment, the doom of the wicked. We long first for their repentance . . . for God to have mercy on them as He has had mercy on us. But we need to recognize and we need to explain without apology that payday is coming. And it’s not just for the likes of Babylon—people who bash babies’ heads against walls; it’s not just for the likes of ISIS. It’s for the likes of any person, any nation, any group that says, “We will not have God to reign over us.”

And do you know what? Some of those people are sitting in church on Sunday morning. They’re self-righteous. They say, “We’ll make our own way to heaven; we’ll go by our own righteousness.”

And God says, “No. In a day, in an hour, it will be all over!” And there will be no more opportunity for repentance.

There is no power, no nation, no force, no institution, no human system, no ruler, no person that is so great that God cannot bring it down in a moment if and when He chooses. And if we want to sing the songs of Zion while we’re living in Babylon, this is what we have to remember. This is what we to keep in mind.

Because otherwise, as we look at what is going on around us, we’ll be so depressed, so disheartened, so discouraged, so fearful we’ll just want to go sit in a little cave somewhere or barricade ourselves up against the world and hope that we can just last until the Rapture.

Listen, ladies, this is not a time for fear, except for the fear of the Lord. This is not a time to hunker down and just hope that it will all be over. You think, If I just go to sleep and wake up, maybe this will all be past. It’s a nightmare, what’s going on in so much of our world!

Don’t close your eyes. Open your eyes and lift them up to heaven and realize who reigns! The Babylonians don’t reign; ISIS doesn’t reign; your proud heart doesn’t reign—Jesus reigns! That’s why we need to keep our eyes on the end of the story. While we’re still here, before we experience the end of the story, we can keep on singing the songs of Zion even while we’re still in Babylon. That’s the big picture. That’s the big story, and we forget it so easily.

Those who love Christ, those who follow Christ are not citizens of this earth. They are citizens of Zion. That’s our ultimate home. But for now, we live in Babylon—the city of man, the earthly city, as Augustine called it. We still have to deal with Babylon every day of our lives—the enemies of God, both external and internal, wickedness within and without. But the day will come when there will be no more enemies to deal with!

There will be no more wickedness, no more oppression, no more violence, no more babies’ heads being smashed against walls or in the womb or anywhere else. For now it looks like Babylon is thriving, victorious on every front, but the prosperity of Babylon is short-lived. It will not last forever. Babylon will be destroyed in a day, in a single hour—all its fame, all its riches, all its power, all its cruelty—all gone. Don’t let Babylon have your heart. Babylon may seem popular now: it’s “in,” it’s cool to be worldly. Don’t let the city of man, the earthly city, steal your heart—your affections. Everything that you see as you look around that isn’t godly is going to be destroyed. Which side do you want to be on in that great judgment day?

That’s why Zechariah the prophet says (we see it several times in the Scripture), “Escape to Zion, you who dwell with the daughter of Babylon” (Zech. 2:7). That’s talking to us. “Flee to Christ! Change your citizenship. Don’t stay as a member of the community, the city, the culture of Babylon.” Flee to the God of Zion; flee to Christ, who is the Savior of the world.”

Now, here’s the rest of the story: We read about the doom, the damnation, the destruction of Babylon. Here’s my favorite part of the story:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, [not the city of man, but the city of God, not Babylon, but] new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away’” (Rev. 21:3–4).

So for now we sit by the waters of Babylon weeping, lamenting, grieving the loss, the pain, the devastation caused in this world and in our lives by sin. We're longing for Zion, longing to be at home in the presence of God. But as we do, we remember that day when there will be no more sorrow, no more weeping, no more tears. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning” (Ps. 30:5 KJV). And in that bright, endless morning, heaven will come to earth. The people of God will be forever at home in the city of God.

And he who was seated on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true” (Rev. 21:5).

Leslie: Usually, when you’re reading a page-turning novel, you don’t want to know the ending. But Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has done us a favor. She’s cracked open the last page of the story of our lives—and of all history—and given away the ending. No matter what twists and turns you face, if you know Jesus as your Savior, you can know that you’ll spend an eternity of joy with Him.

Today’s program wraps up a series called "Singing the Lord's Songs in a Foreign Land." When you’re serving the Lord and building His kingdom in a foreign land, you need time to pull back, get refreshed, and then go back into the fray. Revive '19 is a chance to get away, seek the Lord, be encouraged by your sisters, and hear great biblical teaching.

Revive '19 is coming to Indianapolis September 27–28. The theme for this year’s conference is Seeking HIM. You’ll hear from Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, Mary Kassian, Dannah Gresh and other speakers as they unpack aspects of personal revival. You can get discounted registrations between now and May 1, so I hope you’ll make plans to join us now!

The last Revive conference sold out right around that discount deadline of May 1, so act fast. For all the details on Revive '19, visit ReviveOurHearts.com.

Please be back again Monday as we continue calling women to greater freedom, fullness, and fruitfulness in Christ! 

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth is reminding you of the hope of the gospel. The program is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

All Scripture is taken from the ESV unless otherwise noted.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

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