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Bowls of Wrath 7

Revelation 16:17-21
The seventh angel poured out his bowl into the air, and out of the temple came a loud voice from the throne, saying, 'It is done!' Then there came flashes of lightning, rumblings, peals of thunder and a severe earthquake. No earthquake like it has ever occurred since mankind has been on earth, so tremendous was the quake. The great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations collapsed. God remembered Babylon the Great and gave her the cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. Every island fled away and the mountains could not be found. From the sky huge hailstones, each weighing about forty kilograms fell on people. And they cursed God on account of the plague of hail, because the plague was so terrible. (NIVUK)

This is the seventh plague of the third series of plagues. The vision was a revelation to John of what will take place before the end of time. He sees the angel pouring out God's wrath into the air and witnesses the effect on the world and on rebellious humanity. The sign is interpreted by God's voice from the throne of heaven declaring that the plagues are complete. No more opportunity would be given for sinners to repent. And yet those who survived refused to submit to God: they cursed Him, compounding their guilt and validating their eternal punishment to come.

The whole earth was seen to shake, the ground was torn open, thunder and lightening pulsated through the sky and the great cities of the world convulsed as they collapsed in ruin (2 Peter 3:10). Babylon represents worldly evil, and by the time of this plague, the wickedness is widespread. Jerusalem itself will be shaken by a massive earthquake (Zechariah 14:3-4) with half the city moving north and half moving south. Haggai 2:6-7 promises this final divine shaking of the world, which is confirmed by Hebrews 12:26-27 and demonstrated in John's vision. Whether the event will be triggered by a widespread earthquake and volcanic eruption, or through man-made thermonuclear detonation we do not need to speculate. This prophecy is not to fuel intellectual games of prediction, but to announce a grotesquely serious set of divinely authorised calamities, to induce arrogant humanity to admit that the Lord is King (Ezekiel 38:18-22). When the prophecy is fulfilled, the church can be assured that the Lord is firmly in command and that He will safely escort His church to their eternal rest through all kinds of distress (Zephaniah 1:15; Matthew 24:21-22).

In the vision, John sees the sea rise to obliterate every island; mountains are demolished, and huge hail stones fell as the world's ecosystem disintegrates. At least four times in the Old Testament, God used hail in His warfare against wickedness, a plague to warn Pharaoh (Exodus 9:13-35) and to aid Joshua's army in battle (Joshua 10:11). God's message for the Last Days is that He will take His hand of restraint off creation, which has become dysfunctional, so that it will no longer serve the good of mankind; but will continue to serve His Sovereign purposes.

It is hard to read of God's wrath. Something in us cries out for God to give the world another chance. But that is precisely what the accounts of the seals, the trumpets and the bowls have demonstrated. Warning after warning, like the plagues of Egypt, have already been given. The intensity and coverage of the distress caused has increased and yet the people do not repent. God cannot be accused of impatience or precipitate action. Like Jesus' cry, 'It is finished' (John 19:30), declaring the completed work of atonement on the cross, God's cry, from heaven's throne, of 'It is done' marks the completion of His patient entreaty to sinners to repent. It is a cry to encourage the church that their suffering will be vindicated and therefore Christ's return is near (James 5:8). But until that Day, each day is a day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2); so let us be unashamed to tell out the powerful gospel (Romans 1:16) despite suffering (2 Timothy 1:8).

Father God. Thank You for Your patience in restraining Your wrath and Your righteousness in expressing it. Forgive me for the times when I do not see the insult which sin brings to Your holiness. Help me to live faithfully in the light of Your return, and with gospel boldness in front of my friends and colleagues – accepting that Your patience is limited, but Your mercy and grace are freely available until You say, 'It is done'. In Jesus' Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams