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The Wrath and Judgments of God

May 8th, 2015

When He opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.

Revelation 8:1

We avoid talking about the wrath of God in these days. We put our major emphasis on His love, which is right for us to do. Jesus Himself said, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). We Christians in the West are blessed in many respects to live in a gentler and more progressive time, and we should gratefully thank God for the many, many ways He blesses us today.

Yet we have neglected the doctrine of the wrath of God, to the point where it is not dealt with hardly at all any more. We misunderstand it. The Bible uses anthropomorphic terms to describe God’s wrath, words like anger, rage, displeasure, and vengeance, and our own experience with these emotions as humans leaves us questioning how can God be like this. Of course, this is the problem with understanding it, but God’s wrath is not like human wrath. James 1:20 says, “For the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God,” and Romans 12:19 warns, “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to [God’s] wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” So we are unable to exercise wrath and anger properly because of our sin, and we must leave matters of vengeance into God’s hands.

God, however, is perfect, holy, and His wrath is directed against sin, unholiness, and unrighteousness. He maintains His purity and fights against that that would offend, damage, and oppose His righteousness. God’s wrath is directed against those things that would destroy His love and holiness. And His wrath is always correctly and perfectly expressed. Abraham’s statement, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Gen. 18:25), conveys a truth that we must always keep before us in such passages – when we read of the judgment of God against sin we must keep in mind that God will be completely just in His dealing with the matter. (Check out: http://www.biblestudytools.com/dictionary/wrath-of-god/)

The arresting silence, 8:1-2: The coming of His wrath was announced at the close of chapter 6, “The great day of His wrath has come” (Rev. 6:17). The sealing of the 144,000 reveals that God always looks over those He has redeemed, to protect and save.

The seventh and final seal is opened and there is silence in heaven for about half an hour – the joyous praises and the celebratory singing stopped in anticipation of His wrath. The entire host of heaven realized that something was about to change in the way that God had related to humanity. Since the Great Flood of Noah’s day God had not acted in judgment against the entire earth, but now He turns to unleash His holy wrath.

Following the Great Flood, we see glimpses of His wrath in the Bible, such as the plagues upon Egypt, the judgments upon Israel for their sin, and even toward believers like when He turned to Job out of the whirlwind and said, “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Now gird up your loins like a man, and I will ask you!” (Job 38:2-3). The author of Hebrews wrote, “for it is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31), but since the flood His wrath has been expressed only in part, only for a portion of the world, and only for a brief period of time. Now it is unleashed and like a mighty unstoppable army the judgments of God against sin are beginning to be poured out.

The attentive God, 8:3-6: But there is something else we see alongside of these judgments – we see the prayers of God’s people who have suffered persecution (see 2 Tim. 3:12) that have cried out to Him over the centuries. These prayers are represented by the angel with the golden censer and much incense (8:3), and it would appear that the angels have made their own prayers to God, and they are joined with the prayers of the saints, meaning the believers through the centuries. the Altar of Incense in the temple was an illustration of prayer and it stood in the Holy Place just before the curtain into the Holy of Holies.

God has heard these prayers, uttered in times of difficulty, as believers underwent persecution for their faith and their testimony, or while they looked at a world of unbelievers deceiving while being deceived, enslaved and enslaving others to sin, destroying the institutions that God established, and His world that He created. Believes have cried out to God, “How long, O Lord?” And now the question is answered, “No longer.” He pours out His wrath on a world that has rejected His counsel, that has sought to steal His creation, and what it could not steal destroy. There is still the gradual out working of wrath, leaving some time for some to repent, but now the actions of wrath are begun and will not stop until everything unholy is destroyed.

The annihilated earth, 8:7-12: In the judgments of the seals, the angels were commanded to not destroy the earth until the believing Jewish remnant was sealed (7:3). That having been achieved, the judgments begin. The first trumpet judgment results in one third of earth’s vegetation being destroyed by hail and lightning (8:7). The second trumpet judgment results in a third of the seas being turned to blood and a third of the creatures dying and ships being destroyed by an apparent volcanic explosion, “a great mountain burning with fire was throne in to the sea” (8:9). The third trumpet judgment results in a third of the fresh waters becoming rancid from a great star named Wormwood that fell from heaven. We do not know the identity of this star, but this and the other judgments here may represent asteroids, meteors, or comets that fall to earth and do great damage. The fourth trumpet judgment results in changes to the heavens. One third of the moon and the “stars” were darkened, and the sun was also weakened by one third. “Stars” here means visible heavenly bodies, whether stars, planets, or comets.

Like the seal judgments of Chapter 6, the first four trumpet judgments belong together and happen in quick succession. The earth is decimated by natural disasters that come as judgments of God against human rebellion. This is not to say that every natural disaster is a judgment against the one who is hurt. Christ said, “The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike” (Matt 5:45), so we should not judge anyone who has been hurt by natural disasters. In fact, the chapter ends with a statement of pity, “Woe, woe, woe to the inhabitants of the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound!” Things are about to get worse.

For us today, an application is to be sure that we live our lives to honor God, that our hearts worship Him and our actions are righteous and just. “Kiss the Son lest He be angry, and you perish in the way” (Psalm 2:12a). Honor Him today with your heart, your word, and your actions. “Blessed are those who put their trust in Him” (Psalm 2:12b).

The spirit of the times, however, especially in the West, is to deny God His right as Creator, and as the only true morally perfect One in existence, to express His wrath. We presume to be able to lecture Him. We look upon our sins as insignificant and upon what we presume to be His failures with the utmost seriousness. We have become His accusers, and, as C.S. Lewis wrote, we have put “God in the dock” or on trial for His sins against us! This shows the hardness of our hearts and the fact that we deserve judgment. Today God calls out to us to repent, to turn to Him for forgiveness and cleansing, and He not only forgives but He reconciles us to Himself and adopts us into His family.

For believers in Christ we have not avoided the wrath of God entirely, rather it was poured out on Christ on Calvary for us. He took the punishment for our sins upon Himself, so God Himself has already born the punishment of His own righteous wrath. The only way we may escape His wrath is to trust in His Son, but through Christ we are entirely free and forgiven.

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