- The Washington Times - Monday, July 24, 2000

Excerpts from a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Herschel N. Carlson at Calvary Reformed Presbyterian Church in Alexandria, Va.

In the book of Revelation, chapter eight tells us about the transition of the ages, when the old Jerusalem gives way to the new. Seven angels prepare to blow seven trumpets. Destruction and judgment will rain down on the Earth. "Hail and fire mixed with blood." Judgment is falling on the religious hypocrisy of this world.

Why do the angels trumpet this judgment to the seven churches of Asia Minor? The church must understand that God is about to judge those who spilled the blood of the prophets and the believers. With the removal of this great, oppressive religious system, the way is clear for the New Jerusalem to embrace the entire Earth… .

The trumpets are sounded to give the churches patience and perseverance. The Lord will remove the barriers so they may fulfill His great commission: "Go and make disciples of all the nations." These angelic messengers told the early churches what I want to tell this church today. The Lord has removed the hindrance to the advancement of His kingdom… .

When the trumpets blow, a third of the world is burned up, a third of the trees and green grass. These are branches that once bore fruit, but now they will be cast into the fire. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus speaks of the significance of bearing fruit. He tells the parable of the tenets. When the master returns, they have killed his son and wasted the land. And Jesus says they will be cast out, and the vineyard will be given to those "who will take Him the proceeds at the proper season."

On His journey to Jerusalem, Jesus is hungry for the fruit of a fig tree, but the one He finds has only leaves. He says, "No longer shall there ever be any fruit from thee." And the tree withered. The tenants in the vineyard and the tree, the nation that did not bear fruit for the Lord… .

When a people become barren within, and bear no fruit, not keeping covenant with God and failing to respond to His loving overtures, they become like the pagan nations. And so in Revelation, God's ancient people are addressed by those names. They are called Egypt, Sodom and Gomorra, Babylon… .

We best not point a finger and say, "I'm glad I'm not like those people. I go to church on Sunday. I do all the right outward things." The Lord is not looking for what is outward, but the fruit to eat, the fruit of our regeneration… .

Then after the fourth trumpet sounds, an eagle flew by and in a loud cry said, "Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the Earth." The three "woes" embrace a very large part of the book of Revelation, and it brings us to the heart of our message this morning… . The word woe reaches back to destruction of the temple by Babylon. Isaiah says the Lord had planted his people like an vineyard, and expected the fruit of justice, mercy and faithfulness. But they sought outward comforts and gain, and lived by outward rituals. And Isaiah says, "Woe to those who join house to house." They sought wealth and possessions. And the Lord says, "Surely many great houses will become desolate."

This same truth is drawn forward by the Gospel writers and by Revelation. In Luke, the Lord says, "Woe to you scribes and Pharisees." If you are building religion, seeking outward blessings, but do not have a true heart for God, then it will all be desolate… .

We can be so concerned about our religious differences with others, and our outward appearance. "Woe to you." From Isaiah to the Gospels, and in Revelation, this is judgment on religious hypocrisy. Our outward show of religion without truth and justice, without the freedom of the saving Gospel… . That new Jerusalem is made by God, not by man, and after the woe and judgment, Revelation tells us, "Then I saw the holy city."

Next week: a sermon by the Rev. Carole M. Williams-Sloan at Franklin P. Nash United Methodist Church in the District of Columbia.

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