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Finding Victory in Defeat

Unless you allow the gospel to shift your perspective from earthly to heavenly things, disappointments, discouragements, and defeat will not stop chasing you.

 

Revelation 15:1-8 Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished.

 

And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying,

 

“Great and amazing are your deeds,

    O Lord God the Almighty!

Just and true are your ways,

    O King of the nations!

Who will not fear, O Lord,

    and glorify your name?

For you alone are holy.

    All nations will come

    and worship you,

for your righteous acts have been revealed.”

 

After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests. And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.

 

How do you find victory in defeat? I think that depends on our perspective. My oldest son Arius, age 7, is on a baseball team. In the last few weeks, I've seen his team getting beat up but rather than being disappointed and discouraged, they celebrate after every game because their victory is measured by a different standard. It is about showing up for practices, practicing, and giving 100% on the field. Their victory is in learning the skills, which is shaping them and their perspective on defeat.

 

How do you measure victory or defeat?

 

The problem is when people measure victory and defeat from worldly perspective, their disappointments and discouragement make them feel defeated. They need to know that they can find victory in defeat if they change their perspective on defeat.

 

In Revelation 15, from the world’s perspective, the saints were defeated by the devil and died for not denying Jesus. Yet saints found victory in defeat because of their heavenly perspective on death and defeat.

 

The big idea is, if we want to find victory in defeat, then we must change our perspective on defeat. We change our perspective by allowing the gospel to change our perspective. In Revelation 15, we discover three gospel principles that can change our perspective to help us find victory in defeat if we capture God’s vision, celebrate God’s victory, and consider God’s verdict.

 

Capture God’s Vision (Revelation 15:1-2)

 

To allow the readers to capture God’s vision, verses 1-2 give exclusive access to the behind-the-scenes preparation of the final judgment of God on earth against sin, sinners, and Satan, the source of all disappointments, discouragements, and defeats.

 

Revelation 15:1 reads, “Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished.” As I have said before, always interpret the scriptures literally unless it says otherwise.

 

The word “sign” indicates that it is a symbol of reality so seven plagues are symbolic of something real. We will study that next time. Right now, from the seven seals came the seven trumpets and from which came the seven plagues with seven bowls of wrath to bring all things to their intended end.

 

That is probably why verse 1 ends with the Greek word, teleo, translated in ESV as “finished.” It is to bring something to its intended end. In John 19:28-30, Jesus used the same word when He said, “It is finished” before He took his last breath and died on the cross to save the world.

 

All of this is in accordance with God’s vision. In Greek, the tense in John 19 is, it is something that happened in the past – but with ongoing consequences. In Revelation 15:1, the tense indicates that it is as if it had already happened. In God’s foreseen knowledge, all of Revelation has happened.

 

So, just as Jesus’ finished work of salvation brought an end to sin and its consequences of eternal death, similarly God’s finished work of His wrath would bring an end to sinners resulting in eternal punishment.

 

Verse 2 reflects this contrast between forgiveness and punishment. It reads, “And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands.” We saw this sea of glass in Revelation 4:6; here it is mixed with fire.

 

While glass represents purity, fire represents judgment. We should see this verse in the context of Revelation 14 where martyrs were found blameless. Pure doesn’t mean sinless but being judged in Jesus, they were blameless. For not taking the mark of the beast, they were proved to be faithful witnesses of Jesus. They were tortured and killed on Earth but in Heaven, they were declared victorious. 

 

In my small group, we were talking about how often we spend much of our time praying for what we want, whether it’s a good job, income, house, spouse, etc. but very little time, if any praying to be a good witness.

 

The martyrs, meaning witnesses, and for their witness of Jesus, they were persecuted and killed. How could we be martyrs of Christ if we cannot be good witnesses of Christ? The gospel principle here is that when we capture God’s vision, nothing can defeat us, not even death because the gospel shifts our perspective from Earth to Heaven.

 

The application is to capture God’s vision by allowing the gospel to shift your perspective from Earth to Heaven. His vision is so much bigger than your earthly life. His vision is to bring His Kingdom to earth. He wants us to be active participants in fulfilling His vision.  

 

Celebrate God’s Victory (Revelation 15:3-4)

 

By allowing the gospel to shape our perspective when we discover God’s vision, we realize that we are already victorious. In verse 2, we see the martyrs holding harps in their hands and in verses 3-4, they begin to worship. Revelation 15:3 reads, “And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.”

 

Let’s explore how the martyrs celebrated God’s victory through these songs.

 

For the song of Moses, we have two options. In the Hebrew Bible, Deuteronomy 32 is referred to as the Song of Moses. It has 52 verses that describe God’s mighty works to deliver Israel. It predicts divine punishment for their unfaithfulness yet calls God their Rock and unchanging source of salvation.

 

The other option is Exodus 15, which has similarities to the Song of the Lamb. In Exodus 15, Israel sang the Song of Moses by the Red Sea when God delivered them from Egypt and Pharaoh. In heaven, the saints sang the Song of the Lamb by the sea of glass when delivered from the Antichrist.

 

We see three characteristics of God.

 

What God Does. Revelation 15:3 says, “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty!” His works declare Him God almighty.

 

Who God Is. Revelation 15:3 3 also says, “Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!” Only God is just and true which makes Him the only righteous King of all nations.

 

What God Wants. Revelation 15:4 reads, “Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.” He wants to be feared out of reverence for He is Holy God. Since the song is of deliverance, redemption, and victory, the reference to “righteous acts” must be about deliverance, redemption, and victory over the enemy. God deserve to be worshiped because He is Holy and righteous.

 

I was talking to someone about how we measure victory by what we see, therefore we celebrate God's deliverance only when we see a tangible response to prayers. We hardly ever think about answered prayers that we have not even prayed for. How about the sickness that you could have but don’t. How about loss of income, jobs, or loved ones? 

 

The application is to learn to celebrate God's victory every day for both the things that you can see and the things that you don’t see. The third and final gospel principle that can help us to shift our perspective is, 

 

Consider God’s Verdict (Revelation 15:5-8)

 

Revelation 15:5-6 reads, “5After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, 6and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests.” The phrase “the tent of witness” refers to the first tabernacle that God commissioned in Exodus 25:8-9.

 

John sees the original Tabernacle in heaven, and reports on it in verse 7-8, “7And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, 8 and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished.” Exodus 40:34-35 tells us that in the earthly sanctuary when the glory of God came, no one was allowed to enter— not even Moses.

 

Revelation 4 opened with a glimpse into heaven which is the temple of God, saying, “ “and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me like a trumpet said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” ”

 

Revelation 15 ends with the scene that the door standing open has been closed. No more mercy, no more forgiveness, no more access to grace and salvation, until all the wrath of God is poured out on those who repeatedly refused to believe in Jesus. The door will be opened again during the Millennium, but during the last part of the Tribulation, it will be closed, cutting off all pleas and prayers for repentance.

 

My wife follows this Hasidic Jewish lady on Instagram. The other day she showed me her Instagram post in which she said that Jesus was a Jew but he has nothing to do with the Jewish faith. She insisted on not to listening to Jews for Jesus. Right now the door of salvation is open and people are being saved. This is why she said not listen to Jews for Jesus. 

 

The application is, if you consider God’s verdict against those who seek earthly things, nothing on earth is worth losing heaven for. Capture God’s vision to celebrate God’s victory by considering God’s verdict. 

 

I want to read a text that I received this morning in response to my Saturday text to you all. It reads, “2023 was a super challenging year. However, Pastor, my faith in God increased. I was even hungrier for the Word and to have a closer relationship with God. There is absolutely no defeat in God. He's just too faithful to fail. Even as Nebuchadnezzar instructed to heat the furnace seven times hotter than usual, there was absolute victory and no defeat. See, God never stopped the furnace from being lit, neither stop them from being thrown in the fire. The truth is that He was with them all along and we all know how that story ended.”

 

This is capturing God’s vision, celebrating God’s victory, and considering God’s verdict. 

 

The action step we can take today is to examine our life by asking these questions: “Has the gospel-changed my perspective on defeat?” and “If so, how?”

 

My appeal to you is to allow the gospel to change your perspective because, at times, you will feel defeated against sin, sickness, and the sorry state of things. Unless you allow the gospel to shift your perspective from earthly to heavenly things, disappointments, discouragements, and defeat will not stop chasing you. No matter how hard and how long Satan tries, the end is already written in the redeeming blood of Jesus. In Jesus, you have already been declared victorious.

 

Study Questions

 

1.       In Revelation 15:1-2 (NASB, NIV), who is victorious over the beast? How did they gain victory over the beast?  

 

2.       What is the “sea of glass mingled with fire?” Compare Revelation 15:2 with Revelation 4:6.

 

3.       What is the significance of the two songs— the song of Moses and the song of the Lamb?

 

4.       After the temple was filled with smoke (Revelation 15:8), why was no one allowed to enter the sanctuary? Read Exodus 40:34-35 and Isaiah 6:1-4.

 

Deeper Study Questions

 

1.       How do you define victory and defeat? How do you find victory in defeat? 

 

2.       Throughout the book of Revelation, worship remains one of the central themes. Has studying this book challenged you to worship regularly and consistently? If yes, share with your group how. 

 

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