Seems to me there’s a number of ways to read Revelation. One way is to read it with curiosity. To take an investigative approach as one looks for clues concerning the end times and tries to match them with current events. I suppose another way to read it is with anticipation. Working through the unsealing of seals, and the blowing of trumpets, and the pouring out of vials, all the while just wanting to get to the part where the marriage feast occurs and every tear is wiped away and the new order is established.
But this morning, I’m thinking you can also read the book with a sense of dread if you choose to hover over the parts where God unleashes His wrath and gives the unrepentant what they deserve.
The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say, “Just are You, O Holy One, who is and who was, for You brought these judgments. For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets, and You have given them blood to drink. It is what they deserve!” (Revelation 16:4-6 ESV)
The full wrath of God’s judgment is being unleashed. In another reading this morning, Zephaniah describes it as a bitter day when the mighty man cries aloud. That day of wrath being “a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness” (Zeph. 1:15). And all the more amazing is that men who endure that day will not repent though they know that God is the source of such great affliction. Three times in Revelation 16 it says men will curse God and refuse to repent or give Him glory. And so, nothing more is left but to get what they deserve.
“It is their just due” (NKJV). They receive their “just reward” (NLT). And I can’t think of a more frightening thought than to stand before a holy, holy, holy God and get what we deserve. It’s a death sentence. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God . . . and the wages of sin is death(Rom. 3:23, 6:23).
It’s the antithesis of grace. Grace is receiving what we don’t deserve.
Not that the just due for our sin was left unpaid. But that it was paid by Another in full. Jesus came so that He might take upon Himself what we deserve. The wrath of a holy God poured out on His holy Son for an unholy people. The judgment required for our transgression applied fully to His account that our debt might be wiped clean. Jesus, the Lamb of God, come as the substitutionary sacrifice so that, on that day, men and women might not live in dread of receiving what they deserve.
And so, while the dread of these final plagues grips me, the wonder of grace lifts me. While I can’t imagine people still cursing God in that day, I marvel that He has given me a song of praise to sing for this day.
Not that I deserve any of it. That’s the whole point. I no longer live in the fear of getting what I deserve but in the joy of possessing that which I do not deserve.
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight . . . (Ephesians 1:7-8 ESV)
Lavished upon. According to the riches of His grace. Not what we deserve.
To Him be all glory . . .