The following verses describe the message of the fourth voice of our chapter and that is the voice of eternity. The matter of eternity is a matter of choice and a matter of worship that is laid before all men, especially the men of this coming time. “And the third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, If any man worship the beast and his image, and receive his mark in his forehead, or in his hand, The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation; and he shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb: And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” We know that hell and the lake of fire, eternal separation from God, was not made for man but rather was made for the devil and his angels. The angel of our texts follows the two previous angels, follows them with the same mode and audience. The world has heard the obvious message of the gospel and the end of their system declared and now they again here loudly proclaimed their choice of eternity. The giant “if” of our text is made to ring in their ears.
Over eternity is written a big “if.” This speaks, as well as our text, of the choices mankind make. There is no word in the Bible that speaks more to the liberty of man’s will then that little word “if” in our text. The word tells us that there is no man that is absolutely determined to follow the beast and take his mark. That is just one possibility for men of that day just as it is only one possibility that men perish without Christ. Regardless of what men may think about the 13th chapter, it is a choice to reject Christ for Antichrist. It is a choice that resided with men who had already decided that they “would not” repent of their sins. That “if” tells us that there was no compulsion upon mankind but they freely chose to worship that which is not Christ (the beast – the creature instead of the Creator – Rom. 1), they freely chose to worship an image instead of the true God (in opposition to the command to make no image – Exo. 20), and they freely chose to allow the beast to place his mark of ownership upon them. It could have been resisted. They could have responded to the gospel and stood on the side of Christ. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him” (John 3:36). These are the choices that mankind makes. If they are lost it is because they choose to be.
Our text also tells us that the cup that they share is due to their choice when it says “The same shall drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation….” We saw with the above declaration of the fall of Babylon that those who drank of that wine were drinking their own damnation. This text describes exactly what the wine of the wrath of the fornication of Babylon was; it was bowing to the beast, it was bowing to his image, and receiving his mark. “The same” is true for all that partake of that cup. Those who drink that wine shall share in the fall of Babylon. Our text is clear, “if” any man will follow Antichrist then “the same” man will be made to drink of her poisonous wine. We can either drink of the cup of Christ or drink of the cup of Antichrist that is our choice. It will be one or the other, not both. “Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord’s table, and of the table of devils” (I Cor. 10:21).
Now let us speak more specifically about the cup. The cup is described in as “the wine of the wrath of God.” We already know that it is connected with the sins of men for it is described already as “the wine of the wrath of her (Babylon) fornication.” It was seen, when we discussed that wine, that it was a cup in the Lord’s hand that was given to Babylon (Jer. 51:7, 8). So it is easily ascertained that they both represent the wrath of God upon sin. The source of wrath may be directly from God or it may be from the secondary causes of man’s own actions. The wrath of man praises God (Ps. 76:10). In the description of Babylon’s fall the consequences of man’s sin became the chief means of wrath. Here the wrath is directly attributed as coming from God. The cup of the wine of God’s wrath is what is due to all men due to sin (Ps. 75:8, Hab. 2:16). It is this cup of the fullness of God’s wrath that Jesus Christ took up and drank when he died upon the cross for the sins of mankind. He took it as our substitute and through Him we have already endured the fullness God’s judgment against sin and are therefore saved (Matt. 20:22, 23, 26:23). Praise the Lord that Christ took that cup and offered us a different cup, the cup of the new testament in His blood, a cup of full fellowship with God (I Cor. 11:25). To those who will follow Babylon this cup will be filled and Babylon’s portion which will be double will be poured out upon them (Rev. 18:6).
Consider how the wrath of God is described. The cup in our text is further described as the indignation of God. The word indignation speaks of a strong emotional response on the part of God. God is angered and aroused in his emotions at the injustices and iniquities and the unholiness of mankind. God has a right to be indignit over man’s sin. The word indignation carries the root word of boiling. He created man to be upright and to be the bearer of His image and when they turned aside to lies they rightly stir the righteous anger of God. This cup is also described as being poured. The idea here is a rapid emptying or gushing forth of something. The idea is similar to the idea of baptism and thus Christ spoke of having a cup to drink and a baptism to be baptized with when he spoke of the suffering of the wrath of God that he would experience in our place on the cross (Luke 12:50). The idea with the word pouring in our text carries both rapidity and a total inundation or soaking. Therefore the judgment that will be poured out will be quick and will totally cover all. There will be no holding back to those who will be judged with Babylon. God decided to scatter Babel the first time instead of pouring forth his wrath but here He will not do so (Gen. 11:6). Lastly, the cup is said to be poured out “without mixture.” From this point a difference is made between wrath that is poured on the wicked which is “full of mixture” (Ps. 75:8 – a wrath that has been poured out from time to time since the beginning) and the wrath of God that will be poured out without mixture. In the end there will be no grace or no mercy to dilute the wrath of God. God will be holding nothing back from mankind. His fury, His just and righteous anger, will fall undiluted on the world. To face the person of God without the slightest presence of His mercy will be a fearful thing indeed. Paul, which spoke in relation to the end times said it like this: “when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power” (II Thess. 2:7-9).
That brings us to the eternal torment which will result from the cup. This is what those who follow Babylon will earn: “The same… shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb.” These are the words of Paul as cited above. They are also the words of Christ Himself, “And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity” (Matt. 7:23). Separation from God is what is meant by death which is the wages of sin. The idea of hell and damnation is built on the idea of being separated from the presence of the glory of God. It is fundamental that those who reject God must live with that decision for all eternity. But, our text does not say that they shall be judged from the presence of God, which is true, but in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. This speaks of that which shall be true when Christ comes and judges men. All judgment belongs to the Son (Matt. 25:31). They shall see Christ and be tormented in his presence when He comes to judge this earth. Part of the torment is the shame they will be made to eternally bear when the see the Lamb that they rejected (Mark 8:38). Fire and brimstone is the description of hell. It is the hell or wrath that fell on Sodom (Gen. 19:24). The brimstone or sulfur burning is the wrath that will fall on all the wicked (Ps. 11:6). The text uses a frightening word, torment. They shall be tormented. This word carries the meaning of affliction and punishment. The rich man lifted his eyes in hell and was tormented (Luke 16:24, 25). He was tortured physically and spiritually. Christ has described eternity without God as everlasting punishment (Matt. 25:46).
So our text continues: “And the smoke of their torment ascendeth up for ever and ever: and they have no rest day nor night, who worship the beast and his image, and whosoever receiveth the mark of his name.” Here it is, this is one of many texts that shows the awful reality of those who reject Christ, those who eternally must live with that decision: Eternal torment, Everlasting punishment. Notice that the verse is in the present tense. The idea is that when the punishment that will fall on those, the smoke thereof will be constantly rising forever and ever. There will be no end thereof. Christ once said of this damnation that “their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:46). We can here compare their fate with the fate of the redeemed. Those that come to Christ enter in rest (Matt. 11:28). We shall see later in this chapter that they shall always rest. Those of our text will never rest. Day and night they will continue laboring under their torments whereas the redeemed shall enter into an eternal day where there is no night (Rev. 21:25). One can imagine being eternally present in the moment of intense sorrow and pain and being made to again and again experience it. The smoke of his torment shall arise forever and ever. This text is one of the greatest descriptions of hell found in all of the scripture. Those who follow Satan think that in the end they will be satisfied but in the end they will be eternally found wanting; wanting rest and unable to rest, wanting an end but finding an endless chain of days and nights, wanting relief but finding only torment.
That brings us to the distinction between the redeemed and the lost, “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” The Israelites in Goshen found rest while the wicked of Egypt are subject to the plagues. This is the patience or the endurance of the saints. They kept the commandments of God even when ridiculed. They kept the faith of Jesus even when killed. The description of their rest now comes behind the backdrop of the lost world that has their wicked pleasures now and one day will trade them for eternal torment. The patience of the saints is wiser than the wisdom of the world. The blessings of the patience of the saints follow in the next voice. The world brings out their best wine first but Christ saves the best wine for last (John 2).