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The Encouragement of God's Justice

Revelation 14:9-12
A third angel followed them and said in a loud voice: 'If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives its mark on their forehead or on their hand, they, too, will drink the wine of God's fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. They will be tormented with burning sulphur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment will rise for ever and ever. There will be no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and its image, or for anyone who receives the mark of its name.' This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus. (NIVUK)

Satan's wicked influence over the earth in Revelation 13 culminated in the graphic imagery of the mark of the beast, without which nobody will be able to trade (Revelation 13:16-18). Today's verses unpack the full implication of accepting Satan's authority. It is not just a means of buying food and making a comfortable life; it is also a confession of being anti-Christ. That places the foolish person in the way of the full flood of God's wrath.

The 'wine of God's fury' recalls Psalm 75:8: "In the hand of the Lord is a cup full of foaming wine mixed with spices; he pours it out, and all the wicked of the earth drink it down to its very dregs." The meaning is that God gives rebels an undiluted drink to satisfy their heady passion, but it leaves them incapable of defending themselves against His wrath. In the Old Testament, God punished His own people for their sin, but that chastisement was restrained and for a limited time. However, their tormentors would have eternal punishment. Isaiah 51:22-23 explains: "This is what your Sovereign Lord says, your God, who defends his people: 'See, I have taken out of your hand the cup that made you stagger; from that cup, the goblet of my wrath, you will never drink again. I will put it into the hands of your tormentors, who said to you, "Fall prostrate that we may walk on you." And you made your back like the ground, like a street to be walked on.'"

Although eternal punishment for those who are against Christ is not nice to think about, and some have deleted the doctrine from their thinking, it is clearly in the Bible. Take the time to look at some other verses: from the Old Testament in Isaiah 66:24; Daniel 12:1-2: from Jesus' teaching in Matthew 18:6-9; Matthew 25:31-46; Mark 9:42-48: from Paul's letters in 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10: from Jude's letter in verses 7, 13. The imagery is of unrelenting and inescapable pain, without any relief or limitation (Luke 16:24, 28). But this is not presented as a threat over Christ's enemies, but as an encouragement to His followers who patiently await God's justice. As believers endure escalating oppression from the beast and the false prophet apparently having unrestricted global domination, they need to know that the Lord has not forgotten them and will vindicate them. Those who dishonour Christ, dishonour the Father (Luke 10:16), with eternal consequences.

Some will say, surely, we should forgive our enemies (Matthew 6:14-15). Yes, we should, and that also releases us from the grip of bitterness. But their real offence is against God (John 15:19) and if they will not seek for mercy at the foot of the cross, they must bear the guilty weight of their own sins for ever as it says in 2 Thessalonians 1:6, "God is just: he will pay back trouble to those who trouble you."  Such justice gives fresh confidence to the church. Not that we, or the Lord, long for eternal punishment to be dispensed, but if they persist in dishonouring Him and refuse to repent, then justice must be served (2 Peter 3:9). In the same way, "God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them." (Hebrews 6:10). Whatever your trouble, or however difficult your service, know that the Lord is just. So, patiently endure, faithfully and obediently each day.

Almighty God. Thank You for Your justice and Your mercy. Forgive me for the times when I become discouraged because of the evil against me, forgetting that some of my tormentors may repent and be saved, and others will face Your unending wrath. Help me to face each day, in faithful obedience, confident that You know and care, and that Your justice will perfectly match everybody's response to the grace of Jesus Christ. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams