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Bowls of Wrath 4 & 5

Revelation 16:8-11
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. The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in agony and cursed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores, but they refused to repent of what they had done. (NIVUK)

This last series of judgements on unrepentant humanity is both cosmic and personal. As people declare their allegiance to the beast (the Antichrist: 1 John 2:18; Revelation 13:1) as supported by the other beast (the false prophet: Revelation 13:11-17; 19:20), they believe that these demonically inspired worldly structures will keep them safe. But there is no safety for those who set themselves up against God as revealed in Jesus Christ. The Creator God has the right to give and withhold His creation blessings (Psalm 104:27-29). He has the authority and the power to control everything He has made. The sun's radiation, which is our primary source of light and energy for living beings, is modified by the atmosphere around the earth to protect us from cycles of unbearably intense heat and cold. That protection is given through God's kindness.

The fourth bowl of wrath to be poured out is to increase the sun's radiation to the world. This could happen by either altering its orbit, increasing the sun's energy output or by removing the radiation protection God has placed around the world. John sees, in his vision, a devastating scene of insufferable heat from which people cannot escape. Paradoxically, although they do not acknowledge God, they curse Him. Although they must recognise that they are not almighty, they refuse to accept that God is almighty, futilely shaking their fists at the only One who can save them (Romans 2:4).

The fifth bowl of God's wrath is poured out on the beast's centre of operations, removing all light. The people suffered terrible enduring physical pain and skin disease. Over the years, many suggestions have been made about what might cause this, from a dense plague of locusts to a nuclear winter, but the message is not about God's method of drawing attention to the fact that He is the Lord of Creation and Judge of all the earth (Isaiah 48:11). The message is that despite their unquenchable pain and suffering, human beings would still refuse to admit that they were wrong to ally themselves with a powerful worldly system that stands against God the Father and the Son.

These actions by God seem very severe, but they will take place (Revelation 1:19). However, God takes no pleasure in the suffering and death of the wicked but longs that they will turn to Him in repentance and receive eternal life (Ezekiel 33:11). That is why, in His patience, He gives opportunity after opportunity for people to respond to these warnings and ask for forgiveness. If they refuse, they must face the just penalty of their actions (Hebrews 2:2-3). Although these acts of God's wrath are not the final judgement, they are a terrifying reminder that eternal punishment will be far worse (Luke 16:23-24). That is why we must get right with God now; and announce His salvation to all who will listen (www.crosscheck.org.uk).

Gracious God. Thank You for giving me the opportunity to repent of my sins and submit myself to You. Forgive me for the times when I have failed to uphold Your Name, agreeing with wickedness and compromising my witness to Your saving grace. Please help me to honour You in the way I live, by telling my friends and colleagues of Your free offer of forgiveness to all who turn to You in repentance and faith. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams