Revelation 16:1-9: ‘I like to think of God as…’

“Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, ‘Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.’The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the land, and ugly, festering sores broke out on the people who had the mark of the beast and worshipped its image.The second angel poured out his bowl on the sea, and it turned into blood like that of a dead person, and every living thing in the sea died.The third angel poured out his bowl on the rivers and springs of water, and they became blood. Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say:

‘You are just in these judgments, O Holy One,
    you who are and who were;
for they have shed the blood of your holy people and your prophets,
    and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.’

And I heard the altar respond:                                                                                                    ‘Yes, Lord God Almighty true and just are your judgments.’

The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and the sun was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were seared by the intense heat and they cursed the name of God, who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify him.NIV UK

I’m sure you’ve heard it. Someone says, ‘Well I like to think of God as…’ Then they go on to venture a viewpoint which is far removed from the Bible. Their concept of God is more a matter of personal opinion than divine revelation. When people imagine their god, you tend to end up with a deity who is soft and sentimental, not just and holy. The wrath of God gets omitted.

H.Richard Niebuhr, one of America’s most famous twentieth century theologians, described the message of much ultra-liberal theology like this: ‘A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.’

But you can’t read the book of Revelation without coming into close contact with the reality of God’s wrath. These ‘’bowl’’ judgments are total. With the seals and trumpets, only a part of the earth was harmed or destroyed. They were warnings to call people to repentance. But that note is now absent. John is drawing on the imagery of the Egyptian plagues. ‘These plagues are the beginning of that long process, which will end in chapter 20, by which God will rid his beautiful world, first (in this chapter) of those who have assisted in its destruction and decay, then (in chapters 17 and 18) of the great imperial systems that have set up massive structures of injustice, and finally (chapters 19 and 20) of the dark powers that lie behind those systems themselves, ending (as in 1 Corinthians 15:26-28) with Death and Hades themselves.’ Tom Wright: ‘Revelation for Everyone’, p.143.

PRAYER: Lord God, we stand in awe of your holiness and justice. We thank you that you will not permit evil to have the final say in human history, but you will judge with justice.