God's Wrath Is Revealed
March 06, 2016 | Randy Smith
God's Wrath Is RevealedRevelation 16:1-21
Sunday, March 6, 2016
Pastor Randy Smith
The recipe is nearly perfect. We live in a world that has been taught to apply the principles of reason. "Does it make sense?" "Can it be supported with science?" We live in a world that has been taught to elevate humanism. "Does this put people on the highest pedestal? "Does it agree with how I feel?" Add to this the platform we have given all people through social media to air their opinions and make them think their beliefs are authoritative and inerrant and valuable. Mix all these ingredients together and the stage is set for humanity to judge God and put His character on trial.
Some have dismissed His existence altogether. Others believe in a god that they have reworked in their own imagination whose character fits who they want Him to be. Basically they created a god just like them bound to follow their rules and serve their particular whims. I believe most Americans fit into this category. In the words of David Platt, "In the end, we create a nice, non-offensive, politically correct, middle-class, American Jesus who looks just like us and thinks just like us" (Follow Me, p. 76).
If this is the case, possibly nothing is more offensive than what the Bible depicts as the wrath of God. Listen, anger is the last thing we'll attribute to a god of our imaginations. So first of all we apply reason. We can't reproduce it in a lab. We've never really seen God's wrath. The closest thing might be violent acts of nature, but that is clearly explained through the principles of science. Then we apply humanism. I would never treat anyone that way. People are not that bad to deserve this. Furthermore, it's contradictory with a God who calls Himself love. Therefore despite what the Bible might teach, I have just declared in my mind that God is not wrathful, and I made it official in my blogs and on my twitter page. Case closed.
If this is how you feel, you're going to have a tough time with the Bible, especially the book of Revelation and in particular the chapter we are considering this morning.
As we prepare for the Lord's Table, I'd like to take some time to give an overview of chapter> 16, but in such a way that addresses and defends the character of God, especially the aspect of His character that we call His wrath.
So far in Revelation we have seen God's wrath displayed on three occasions. First were the seven seals. The seals were a foretaste of God's wrath primarily through natural means that we already experience in this world - famines, wars, plagues, earthquakes, death, etc. Then there were the seven trumpets. The trumpets were extraordinary acts of God in His judgment of the world. The wrath was partial. One third of the world was affected with the trumpets and the trumpets were given still in the hopes of repentance. Then last week (chapter 15) we were introduced to the seven bowls. The bowls closely parallel, but are different from, the trumpets. As I've already mentioned, the bowls also closely follow the ten Egyptian plagues. And like those Egyptian plagues, with the bowls we'll hear about sores and water turned to blood and frogs and darkness and death. With the bowls we have rapid succession and complete destruction. God's wrath in full fury, so much that, 15:8, "no one was able to enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished."
When these final seven bowls of wrath are poured out, the cry from heaven in 16:17 declared, "It is done." Or as it says in 15:1 regarding these bowls, "In them the wrath of God is finished." Obviously there is still everlasting wrath demonstrated in hell (the Lake of Fire) which we'll get to in a few chapters, but these bowl judgments bring an end to God's wrath on earth and prepare the way for the return of Jesus.
The seven bowls of God's wrath are introduced in chapter 15. In chapter 16 they are described. The wrath originates from God and is assigned to seven "great and marvelous" angels who will deliver it (Rev. 15:1). As we witnessed with the trumpets, the big question is whether we should take these bowls literally or symbolically. Scholars have argued that point since the first century. Either way you go, it is tremendous horror to humankind.
Let's briefly examine each of the seven bowls. In verse 2, the first bowl is described as bringing "loathsome and malignant sores." So, literal sores like those Job experienced (Job 2:7-8, 13) or figurative, some kind of psychological and emotional torment.
The second bowl is mentioned in verse 3. There we learn that the sea becomes blood and all in the sea dies.
The third bowl is spoken of in verses 4-7. That bowl now affects all the fresh water sources as they too become blood.
The fourth bowl in verses 8-9 speaks about people being scorched with fire.
The fifth bowl from verses 10-11 speaks of the wrath that is directly specifically toward the antichrist and his kingdom. The bowl is poured out, verse 10, on the "throne of the beast and his kingdom became darkened."
The sixth bowl mentioned in verses 12-16 is poured out on the "great river Euphrates" which dries up its water and is said to prepare the way for the "kings from the east." We'll come back to that.
And then the seventh and final bowl spoken of in verses 17-21 is described as lightning, thunder, a great earthquake and huge hailstones.
So, why? Why does God do this to all the world just prior to His return, sparing only His children?
The answer is that God stands above all human authority. God is Creator and He has created a world to love Him and find their ultimate enjoyment in Him. The Scriptures say that through His Word and the person of Jesus Christ, He has revealed Himself in creation whereby "His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature" have been clearly seen (Rom. 1:19). The Bible says it is so evident that all men are without excuse (Rom. 1:20).
Yet we've chosen not to honor God. The Bible says that while we were "professing to be wise, [we've] became fools" (Rom. 1:22). We exchanged the glory of God for alternate gods of worship that have demanded our time, affections and hearts (Rom. 1:23).
And though all men deserve God's judgment, He has chosen in His love and mercy to send Jesus Christ to the cross to take our sins against Him upon Himself, put them away by facing God's judgment Himself, and make a way for an intimate relationship with God through His mercy, forgiveness and grace if we receive Him by faith. And even with this great love offering, we've spurned it as being unnecessary and unworthy.
So what is God supposed to do? Ignore the violations on His character? Ignore the justice that is due for rebelling against His will? God is the Judge of the world. Does a good judge just let guilty people off the hook? If God does not punish unrighteousness, His concept of a moral universe would have to be discarded. If God does not punish unrighteousness, He could not be true to who He is. After clearly revealing Himself and supplying warning after warning, God must respond.
But you say, isn't the response of His wrath disproportionate to our offenses? And the biblical answer is "no."
Though I'm not condoning any form of violence in this illustration, permit me to make a point. Let's pretend you punch a pillow in your home. What are the consequences? Let's say you now punch the family pet. Stronger consequences? What happens if you punch a family member? Would the offense be greater if you punched a police officer? What would happen if you punched the President of the United States? Our sin is always directly proportionate to the person we sin against. When we sin against an infinite and eternal God, there are always infinite and eternal consequences.
We see this in a sense in chapter 16. In verse 2 we read about sores given to those who took the mark of the beast. So those who choose to bear the mark of the beast will now be visited with marks from God. Or verse 8 in being scorched with the sun. Those who alter God's moral laws receive the altering of God's physical laws on them. Or verse 10, those who prefer the kingdom of darkness will now bear the judgment of darkness. Or even in verse 6, the angel of God makes this point: "They poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink." This we can be sure of - the punishment will fit the crime and no one will ever be able to accuse God of being unjust.
Romans 2 says, "But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds" (Rom. 2:5-6).
As we go through life without having our sins removed in Christ, we are simply adding to the account, the ledger that God is keeping of our sin. God is extremely patient, waiting on our repentance. However, patience does not imply tolerance. If we persist in unrepentance we will face His wrath when He reveals His righteous judgment on the Day of Judgment.
My friends, if you are in Christ the ledger has been torn to shreds, nailed to the cross. Your sins have been removed from God's presence as far as the east is from the west, never to be used against you ever again.
Now you say, if only people could be given a taste of this wrath they would gladly repent of their evil deeds and turn to Him by embracing Christ as Lord of their lives. Well, I can tell you with certainty that that is not the case.
The fourth bowl scorches men with fire. Their response? Verse 9, "Men were scorched with fierce heat; and they blasphemed the name of God who has the power over these plagues, and they did not repent so as to give Him glory." The fifth bowl brings darkness and pain. Their response? Verse 11, "And they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds." The seventh bowl brings large hailstones when the storm of God's wrath reaches its climax. Their response? Verse 21, "And men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe."
Again, like the Egyptian captivity, remember the hardness of Pharaoh's heart? Plague after plague and he still refused to submit to God.
The Bible says when we substitute the real God for false gods, idols, we become like them. What we see here is that the people who have rejected God have wholly taken on the blasphemous character of the false god they serve.
Maybe nowhere is this better seen than this final climatic battle between God and His enemies described in verses 13-16. There is a lot of debate as to where this location called Armageddon or HarMagdon is located. Perhaps it's a literal placed with that name. Perhaps it's just a reference to the Valley of Megiddo where Israel fought some of its most memorable battles. In that case it would simply signify a decisive battle that takes place somewhere in the future. We do know this, it is, verse 14, "the war of the great day of God the Almighty."
Either way, what we see here is the arrogance of the forces of darkness. While still as prideful and boastful as ever, they give one last and final push to overthrow the kingdom of God. The final battle is light versus darkness, good versus evil, God versus Satan, Christ versus the antichrist. And this is when Jesus returns and deals His decisive death blow to all who seek to oppose Him primarily including, verse 13, "the dragon"[Satan] and "the beast" [antichrist] and "the false prophet" in addition to all who align themselves with the unholy trinity, those who have received the devil's lies supported by, verse 14, the demons and false miracles.
The only reason we can ever see injustice in the actions of God is because we have brought God down to our level and have now made Him accountable to us. We have elevated ourselves and dethroned God by making our opinions more authoritative than the Bible.
Is God's wrath unjust? Perhaps a good barometer is to see how heaven reacts to God's wrath. After all, heaven is to exist without sin that clouds our thinking. Furthermore, it's box seats to observe God's character and the display of His attributes. So how does heaven respond to God's wrath?
Last week in verses 3-4 of chapter 15 we read about their hymn of praise as it pertained to this subject. "Great and marvelous are Your works, O Lord God, the Almighty; righteous and true are Your ways, King of the nations! Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy; for all the nations will come and worship before You, for Your righteous acts have been revealed."
Today in verses 5-7 in chapter 16 we read about heaven saying, "Righteous are You, who are and who were, O Holy One, because You judged these things; for they poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. They deserve it… Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments."
So how do we respond? If Jesus Christ is not your Savior, you are under this very wrath of God that we have read about this morning. It's undeniably spoken of throughout the Bible. To ignore it is to reject God and remain under His judgment. The ledger against you is growing. Wrath is being stored up. Will you today run to Jesus Christ who, 1 Thessalonians 1:10, "rescues us from the wrath to come?" This is why Jesus came. This is why we call Him "Savior." Jesus went to the cross to take our sin upon Himself and receive the wrath of God that we deserved. It's very simple, either Christ bears God's wrath you deserve on Himself or you bear God's wrath you deserve on yourself. The choice is yours.
And if you are in Christ, be eternally thankful that you have been saved from God's wrath. 1 Thessalonians 5:9, "For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ." May you keep your eyes on Christ by giving Him first-place in all things to cut through the false lies of darkness and look for His blessed return. For of that return, our Lord says in verse 15 of today's chapter, "Behold, I am coming like a thief. Blessed is the one who stays awake."