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Revelation 16:1–7

“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!’ ”(vv. 5–6).

Timing is everything, so to speak, for to act at the wrong time is to risk making a significant mistake. Put the bread in the oven before the dough has had time to adequately rise, and one will not get the full, soft loaf that is expected. Make a military move too early, and one will be ill equipped to sustain the army in the fight and win the victory.

When it comes to divine judgment, timing is also everything. God will not pour out the fullness of His wrath until the right time for that wrath has arrived. He did not bring the Israelites into Canaan and cast out the inhabitants of the promised land until the Canaanites’ iniquity was complete, until the point came when their wickedness fully merited the punishment inflicted (Gen. 15). Jesus warned that judgment would fall on the Pharisees and scribes once they filled up the measure of their fathers’ sins, once their iniquity fully earned the coming wrath (Matt. 23:29–36).

Revelation 16 conveys this same idea that the fullness of God’s wrath will come once the appropriate measure of wickedness has been achieved. Verses 1–16 describe the pouring out of the first six bowls of wrath, which is expressed in the form of plagues. Note that these plagues parallel the judgments expressed in the sounding of the seven trumpets (8:6–13). However, whereas the earlier judgments afflicted only a portion of sinful humanity, the plagues from the bowls of wrath fall on everyone not united to Christ by faith alone (16:1–16). The complete measure of judgment has arrived, for the human race has made itself fully deserving of the Lord’s wrath. The same notion of the fullness and appropriateness of God’s wrath at the right time is also expressed in 16:4–6, where the impenitent are forced to drink blood. This is because the enemies of God’s people have shed the blood “of saints and prophets,” having persecuted believers under both the old and new covenants. Their bloodshedding merits punishment in kind.

Because these plagues are similar to the earlier judgments but greater in their scope, they show us that what comes at the final expression of God’s wrath is the full escalation of the Lord’s earlier judgments. There is a connection between the disaster at the end and the suffering that the world experiences before then. Plagues, wars, and natural disasters are a foretaste of the wrath to come and warnings that people must repent now before it is too late.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

God is calling out to the world for repentance, and one of the ways He does this is by reminding us of our frailty. We cannot connect every natural disaster to a specific sin, but these troubles do remind us that we will die and therefore that we need to be prepared to meet our Maker. Let us consider our frailty and remind people that they need to know Christ before it is too late.

For Further Study
  • Leviticus 26:14–46
  • Habakkuk 3
  • Luke 13:1–5
  • Revelation 9

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