Reading: Revelation 16
We are moving with great speed ever closer towards the great climax of Revelation. In this passage we see that seven angels are commanded by God to pour out seven bowls of his wrath on the earth. Yesterday we saw that when these seven bowls have been poured out, God’s wrath will be finished forever.
These bowls make for terrifying reading. John had seen the bowls earlier (5:8), they contained the prayers of the saints so it seems fair to say that the prayers of the saints crying out over the injustices of the world initiate the bowls of God’s wrath. A friend of mine Nick Mountford wrote a few days ago when we looked at chapter 5 …
“Thinking about God storing up our prayers in big bowls makes me think about the justice of God as well as his mercy. Answered prayers clearly show God’s mercy to us, undeserving as we are. But that he stores them up for the point when he brings his wrath on the world – the point when he acts to bring judgement on the world for the way they have treated his people! This sounds to me like building a legal case, accumulating witness statements before bringing his judgement.”
The first three bowls, which are similar to the plagues poured out on the Egyptians (Exodus 7-14-24), are poured out in quick succession (2-4). This is followed by an angel who speaks and tells us that these judgements are appropriate and right (5&6). Then the voices of the martyrs are heard agreeing with God’s judgements, their voices being heard coming from the altar (in chapter 6:9 we saw that the altar was the home of those who had died for their faith in Jesus). Finally, we see the last bowls poured out. Again the images are so similar to the Egyptian plagues that one scholar and pastor, Simon Woodman, suggests these bowls are “emphasising that the purpose of the judgements is to ensure the vindication of the people of God and their freedom from the slavery and tyranny of a satanic empire.” (The Book of Revelation p.51)
When I read of the wrath to come, my heart breaks. God tells us that he is unwilling that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9) so he is holding off bringing these terrible events to a head. He is patiently waiting so that any who will, will repent and turn to him. It seems that these last events will only happen when there is no one left who will turn to God. That will be a terrible time, and a horrendous place to be, a true dystopia beyond the imagination of any science fiction writer. It will be reminiscent of Genesis 9:5 when God says of the people living on earth that all their thoughts all the time were only evil. In such a world, to wrap it up and finish it is true mercy.
When God saw the wickedness of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-33), Abraham pleaded with him to spare the cities. Only when Abraham comes to the realisation, through his pleadings with the Lord that there are less than ten righteous people in those cities does he stop. I love what Abraham says, “I know that the judge of all the earth will do right“. This has to be our belief too, God will do right! The angels declare it, the martyrs declare it and so should we.
I think our ultimate response should be the same as Abraham, to plead with God for those around us and seek (with passion, energy and love) for them to turn to Jesus and follow him.
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
“Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments.” (Revelation 16:7)
Father, today I want to lift up my family and friends who do not know you. I lift them to you by name …
Lord, please would you remove the blindfold on their eyes that stop them seeing you. Would you tear down every thought and attitude of their hearts that sets its self up against you. Father would you soften their hearts that they may receive you with great joy. Would you help me to serve them and speak of you to them in a way that makes sense and isn’t nagging. Father help me to show love, patience and care to them. In Jesus name. Amen.
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