Heavenly Preparation for the Final Wrath of God (Revelation Sermon 29 of 49)
December 10, 2017 | Andy Davis
Wrath of God
Revelation is the incredible book of the unveiling of Jesus Christ, the Glorious One, whose glory we cannot see now. We have never seen him, as 1 Peter 1 says, and yet we love him. Revelation also reveals the coming future.
God’s Heavenly Preparation of the Day of His Wrath
Everything is Meticulously Prepared
In 1734, Jonathan Edwards preached a sermon in preparation for perhaps the greatest revival of religion that has ever been seen in the United States, the First Great Awakening. He began the sermon with these words: “It is the manner of God, before he bestows any signal mercy on the people, first to prepare them for it.”
He preached from 1 Kings on the contest between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Edwards pointed out that God had been preparing the Jewish nation for years for an amazing revival of religion that day on Mount Carmel. To prepare the people for that, God had with withheld dew and rain from the land for three-and-a-half years. There had been a drought, which brought severe famine as a result on the land. He had raised up an amazing and bold prophet named Elijah, who carefully set up this contest with the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel at the instruction of God. Elijah said in his own prayer that he had done everything at God’s word.
In this contest on the summit of Mount Carmel, two altars were set up — one for Baal, and one for Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. A sacrificial animal was laid on each one. Prophets of Baal would call out to Baal and Elijah would call out to the Lord; the God that answered from Heaven to earth by fire would be revealed as the true God. All of this was carefully orchestrated by God in advance. When the fire fell from Heaven to earth, the people fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, He is God.” In their turn prior to Elijah’s, the prophets of Baal had failed to do anything. There had been no supernatural display of Baal’s power in answer to their prayers.
The Book of Revelation makes a similar but opposite point to Edwards’ point about how God prepares His people for His signal mercies; I put it like this: “It is the manner of God, before he pours out his just wrath on the wicked of the earth, first to prepare them for it.” God has been setting up a clear display of evil and wickedness of sin and rebellion against God throughout redemptive history, and it will culminate at the end of the world. God has been preparing the wicked of the world for such a time as that will be.
Proverbs 16:4 says, “The LORD works out everything for his own ends — even the wicked for a day of disaster.” God works everything out for His own purposes, including rebellion; He has a meticulous careful plan for the wicked of the Earth. The Bible reveals that God is slow to anger. He is patient, as He revealed to Moses in Exodus 34:6-7: “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished.” There will come a day when his righteous judgment will be revealed. Romans 9 says that God bears with great patience the objects of His wrath, but the same verse says that they are prepared for destruction.
God Has a Meticulous Plan
God has meticulously planned how He will deal with the wicked. He has borne with great patience their wickedness in every generation: they have flouted His laws, flaunted their freedoms, abused His people, fanned their lusts into a flame, blasphemed His holy name, taken in the blessings of His sunlight and rain without giving Him thanks, worshipped false gods of various types, and much more. God has borne all of this with great patience.
All this has been part of God’s plan to give us what we wanted, what our first father asked for in the Garden of Eden on our behalf. We wanted an education in evil, starting with the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. We have since had millennia of education in wickedness and evil. God has drawn it out, as the Book of Romans says, “…in order that the trespass might increase…” that we might actually see in all of its dark colors just how evil and wicked sin is.
The wicked of the earth have worshipped various gods and goddesses and made idols. This idolatry will be consolidated in the end into one final idol, the Antichrist, the man of sin, who will come up out of the sea. A corresponding image of him will be formed to focus the wicked idolatrous hearts of the people of the earth on this one man. This will be the final false religion. At the end of time, God will pour out His judgments in a very wise, orderly way, little by little, but escalating and increasing. Revelation 9:20-21 makes it plain, however, that the people, even with great judgments being poured on them from Heaven to earth, still will not repent. Revelation 9:20-21 says, “The rest of mankind that were not killed by these plagues still did not repent of the work of their hands; they did not stop worshiping demons, and idols of gold, silver, bronze, stone and wood-- idols that cannot see or hear or walk. Nor did they repent of their murders, their magic arts, their sexual immorality or their thefts.”
God will unleash a series of meticulously prepared judgments, one after the other, that culminates in a final crescendo of judgment depicted in Revelation. Previously in this book, Jesus has broken open the seven seals, resulting in a series of escalating judgments. Out of the seventh seal come seven trumpets (Revelation 8 and 9), judgments on the ecology of the earth in which a third of the plants and trees are burned up along with all of the green grass, a third of the oceans are turned to blood, a third of living creatures die in the ocean, a third of the fresh water is poisoned, and a demonic army is unleashed on the inhabitants of the earth, resulting in the death of a third of mankind.
Even in His wrath, God is showing restraint. There is still a vast number of survivors, the ecology somewhat recovers, and life goes on for a short time longer. They have been warned one final time. All of these things were prepared or planned in the mind of God before the world began. Now in Revelation, the time will have come to unleash the final judgments, the final plagues, like the most devastating doomsday machine ever seen.
Like a Terrifying Doomsday Machine
The most terrifying, devastating doomsday weapon ever concocted by humans is the atomic bomb, made in the Manhattan Project of World War II. The greatest physicists, mathematicians and engineers available worked together for three years at a total cost of over $2 billion (a huge amount of money in the mid-1940s) and a workforce of 120,000 people. They produced the weapon that unleashed the power of the atom. The science was precise and complex and the final effect was unspeakable. On July 16th, 1945, the first nuclear blast in history was detonated at the Trinity site in New Mexico.
The man in charge of the project, physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, quoted Hindu poetry at that moment, saying, “I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” When it was dropped on Hiroshima, the atomic fireball over that city was devastating and awesome, killing 90,000 people in one explosion. I have been to the Peace Museum in Hiroshima, a sobering sight. But all of that is as nothing compared to what will be unleashed in the seven bowl judgments depicted in the next chapter, Revelation 16.
The Heavenly Display of the Seven Angels
A Sign in Heaven
Revelation 15 is a preface, the shortest chapter in the Book of Revelation. It introduces the careful preparation of the final judgment that will be poured out from Heaven on earth for human sin, flowing from the character of God and His heavenly temple.
Revelation 15:1 says, “I saw in heaven another great and marvelous sign: seven angels with the seven last plagues — last, because with them God's wrath is completed.” John opening words emphasize his role as seer, a visionary prophet, able to see into the heavenly realms things that we cannot see. He calls it a “great and marvelous sign.” The word “sign” was used of Jesus’s miracles, called signs and wonders, indicating what the coming kingdom would be like, where there would be no more death, mourning, crying or pain. Jesus in His mercy banished illness and even death for a short time in the few years that He ministered, able to handle any disease and sickness. Those were signs of a coming kingdom.
The great and marvelous sign here is the coming judgment of God on the wicked of the human race.
Seven Angels, Seven Plagues
This brief chapter of Revelation introduces the bowl judgments, seven last plagues brought by seven angels, to be revealed in detail in the next chapter. The seven angels will be God’s chosen instruments to pour out these bowls of judgment on the surface of the earth. The number seven is familiar — a number of perfection or completion. The seven seals give way to the seven trumpets, which give way finally to the seven bowls.
The Completion of the Wrath of God
Verse 1 says, “seven angels with the seven last plagues-- last, because with them God's wrath is completed.” The wrath of God is a perfect expression of His character. It is nothing that He must repent from or snap out of later; it is not irrational or mindless. It flows from His character, a perfect expression of His justice and His passionate nature. Our God is passionate; He has emotions. We are created in His image, so we have feelings too. Our anger, however, is usually unrighteous, not often mirroring God’s righteous wrath and righteous indignation. Usually our wrath is based on pride or inconvenience.
Wrath is His necessary, perfect emotional reaction to the existence of evil, and it also relates to His love for His people and for His creation. He hates anything that harms His people and destroys his beautiful creation. His wrath is linked with His love, but this display of His wrath in these judgments is not His home base, not His central nature. God is love. His wrath is not one of the things presented first and foremost about Him. Isaiah 28:21 speaks of God’s wrath being His strange, alien work, not His normal home base. That is why He puts it off so long.
In the book of Jonah, the only thing harmed is the vine that grows up. All the threatened judgment never happens. Everything survives — the pagan sailors, the whale, Jonah, the worm — everything except the plant, because God is deferring His wrath and judgment on Nineveh and on Jonah.
This is strange, alien work, but it will come. With the seven bowls poured out, God’s wrath will be finished for redemptive history. There will be no more such display of His wrath of God in the New Heaven and the New Earth, except for the eternality of hell.
The Heavenly Celebration by the Victors
Revelation 15:2-4 says, “And I saw what looked like a sea of glass mixed with fire and, standing beside the sea, those who had been victorious over the beast and his image and over the number of his name. They held harps given them by God and sang the song of Moses the servant of God and the song of the Lamb: ‘Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.’”
In this heavenly vision of triumphant worship, the victors, who have survived all of the attacks on their souls and the terrors of the reign of Antichrist, the Beast from the Sea, are assembled there to worship and celebrate that God is about to finally destroy all of their enemies and display His power and His righteous indignation. This is a song of victory for them, celebrating God’s character and the mighty deeds.
The Sea of Glass
They are on the crystal sea, which we saw first in Revelation 4 in the vision of God seated on His throne ruling over Heaven and earth. Revelation 4:6 says, “Also before the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.” In this heavenly vision, the sea is mingled with fire. This crystal sea is in direct contrast to the churning turbulent sea out of which the four beasts in Daniel 7 and the one beast in Revelation 13 emerge as a restatement or consolidation of the four beasts.
The original vision, Daniel 7:2-3, says, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me were the four winds of heaven churning up the great sea. Four great beasts, each different from the others, came up out of the sea.” Four great beasts came up out of the churning sea. The sea represents God’s judgment upon nations with their turmoil and fighting, wars and rumors of wars. Isaiah 57 says, “But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud.”
But in Heaven, the crystal sea is placid. God reigns over a heavenly harmony and peacefulness. It is hard to imagine. We are so filled with anxiety and turbulence. The crystal sea in Heaven is first seen on Mount Sinai. Moses and Aaron and Nadab and Abihu and the elders of Israel went up on Mount Sinai and saw the throne of God and an expanse, like sapphire, clear like the sky, between them and God. He was reigning over this crystal expanse.
Ezekiel 1 tells of the incredible, almost indescribable vision of God of wheels within wheels, eyes on the rims of the wheels, wheels of fire and Seraphim and more, and then above and above and above. Imagine being Ezekiel having to try to put that into words. He did the best he could on the iteration of the Holy Spirit, but it is difficult to picture. Above all of this is an expanse, like a crystal ceiling, and above that comes the throne of God.
This crystal sea is mingled with fire, which is not mentioned in Revelation 4. This fire must represent the peacefulness of God in His heart, but also His vengeance and justice which will be poured out on the sinners of earth. As the river of fire flowed from God’s throne onto His enemies in judgment, so the fire combined with the crystal sea indicates that God is at peace while He judges His enemies. It doesn't ruffle Him or destabilize His soul to do so.
The Triumphant Saints
The NIV says “beside the sea”, but “on the sea” is more accurate — the triumphant saints, walking on the sea almost like Jesus walking on the water, experiencing the perfect tranquility and peacefulness of God in Heaven as they walk there before Him.
These triumphant saints are described as conquering heroes in Revelation 15:2 (CSB): “I also saw something like a sea of glass mixed with fire, and those who had won the victory from the beast, his image, and the number of his name, were standing on the sea of glass with harps from God.”
They are conquerors who have run the race with endurance and crossed the finish line, especially in the final phase of human history, the most terrifying and dangerous time. It will take the most courage to stand up for Jesus during the reign of the Antichrist and the Beast from the Earth, the false prophet. On pain of death, they will testify to their allegiance to Jesus. They will conquer; they will overcome.
Jesus ends every letter to the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, “To him who overcomes…” To those who overcome, he promises reward: the right to eat from the Tree of Life, a new name, a place in the temple of God, never to leave it.
These rewards are promised to the victors, who stand firm to the end. Romans 8:35-37 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we are being slaughtered all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” These super conquerors are the ones who stood firm in the hardest test and triumphed over the beast and his image and the number of his name.
Revelation 13 tells us who the beast is: the Antichrist, the one-world ruler who will come under the power of the dragon, the Devil. He will claim his throne over all the peoples and languages of the earth, not only going to be political power but religious power as will. People will worship him as God and bow down before him. He will require everyone small and great to receive the mark of the beast on the hand or forehead; no one will be able to buy or sell without it, and those who will not receive it will be executed. They will behead those who will not yield and bow down to worship the idol or the beast. Revelation 12:11 says of them, “They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death.”
Their Worship Song
These triumphant conquering heroes stand on the crystal sea mingled with blood, holding harps given to them by God, singing a worship song. Harps and trumpets are the only two musical instruments mentioned in the Book of Revelation. God gives them this gift to celebrate the triumph. The song of triumph is called The Song of Moses and of the Lamb.
The Song of Moses reminds us of the days of the Exodus. Moses is called the Servant of the Lord because he did the Master’s bidding. God used him to lead the Jews out of four centuries of bondage in Egypt. God brought them out with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm after pouring out ten terrible plagues on the wicked Egyptians. But He hardened Pharaoh’s heart to chase the Israelites with his mighty army and pin them against the Red Sea. The people were terrified and cried out. There seemed to be no escape, but Moses called out to God, who extended His hand over the Red Sea. A mighty east wind came all night and opened for them a way through the sea. They crossed as on dry ground, with the water walling up on the right and on the left. Two million Israelites crossed at night, with the pillar of fire leading them.
It is a picture of coming up out of darkness, out of death into resurrection — a picture of our faith in Christ. There are many images like this in the Old Testament. When the dawn came, Pharaoh’s heart was hardened one more time, and he led his army into the Red Sea. The water came crashing down; the enemies were destroyed and they all died. The enemies they saw that day, they would never see again, just as God had promised.
When that finally happened and those words were fulfilled on the other side, they sang a song of celebration. It is called the Song of Moses, the song of triumph. Exodus 15:1-3 says, “Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the LORD: ‘I will sing to the LORD, for he is highly exalted. The horse and its rider he has hurled into the sea. The LORD is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father's God, and I will exalt him. The LORD is a warrior; the LORD is his name.’”
This song is not called that. That was a great deliverance, but we have an even greater deliverance to celebrate at the end of all time, the deliverance worked for us by the Lamb of God, Jesus. However great that exodus was, however mighty was God’s hand over the enemies of the Jews back then, this is even greater. We will be delivered at last from all the enemies of our soul, from the world, the flesh and the devil, delivered by the Lamb of God who shed His blood on the cross for sinners like you and me. We deserve to be swept away in the wrath of God, but we will reach the other side. We will be on that crystal sea, and we will celebrate the greatness of the grace of God, to the praise of His glorious grace.
We will celebrate and sing, perhaps with incredible singing voices. We will celebrate the victory of the Lamb who shed His blood for our souls, the Song of Moses and of the Lamb. At the end of Revelation 5, the worshipers around the throne sing a song when Jesus, the Lamb of God, takes the scroll from the right hand of Him who sits on the throne, in cascading worship. Revelation 5:9-10, 12 says, “And they sang a new song: ‘You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth…. Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
The only lyrics to the Song of Moses and of the Lamb that we know are the few that are given here in this chapter, though I think it will be a longer song. Revelation 15:3-4 says, “Great and marvelous are your deeds, Lord God Almighty. Just and true are your ways, King of the ages. Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship before you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.”
The song celebrates God’s great and marvelous deeds. These are all the deeds of sovereign grace that He has worked throughout history — miracles and mighty acts — to save the elect, to redeem them and bring them safely to Heaven, but also to judge the servants of Satan, the enemies of the Gospel. Works of salvation, works of judgment. In Heaven, we will be church historians. Do not dread it; it will not be boring. We will retell the great and marvelous deeds of God and celebrate His character.
He is the sovereign ruler of the universe, and His ways and judgments are just and true. He is no tyrant, acting capriciously. He acts perfectly according to justice. He is the King of the Ages. His reign will last forever and ever. Antichrist gets three and a half years. Nebuchadnezzar realized that he would die and his kingship would end, but God gave him a revelation of a kingdom that would never end. He celebrated in Daniel 4:34: “His dominion is an eternal dominion; his kingdom endures from generation to generation. Who will not fear you O God and bring glory to Your name?”
Imagine being in a terrifying situation, like the earthquake my family and I experienced in Japan. Someone asked us if we were afraid. Seeing the entire house shake under your feet, with nowhere to go, who would not be? I cannot imagine a person in that situation who would not feel fear.
These saints are saying the same thing. “‘Who will not fear you, O Lord, and bring glory to your name…’ O majestic King of the Ages?” It doesn't make any sense to have no fear in His presence. It shows the irrationality of the world’s rebellion, and yet the overwhelming majority of people on earth, even at that time, will not fear His name and will not bring glory to His name. These saints cannot comprehend it; they give reasons why He should be feared — God alone is holy there is an infinite gap between God and all creatures; He is immeasurably high and lifted up.
All nations will worship before God because He deserves it and has mandated it. Outside of the door to my right, there is a world map above which is one of my favorite verses, Habakkuk 2:14: “The earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea. All nations are going to worship Him and bow down before Him.” Psalm 22:27-28 says, “All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the LORD, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the LORD and he rules over the nations.”
Who will not fear such a God, who will not bring praise to His name? All nations will come. Because God’s righteous acts have been revealed, culminating in the work of Christ, who would be so insane as to not fear Him, not come bow down before Him?
The Heavenly Source of the Wrath of God
Origin of God’s Wrath
The song of the victors pinpoints the theological source of the wrath of God. It flows from His character and His position in the universe. He is a holy righteous King, and He loves righteousness and hates wickedness. His wrath flows from His person and His commitment to His people. He is motivated to vindicate His people and protect them from their enemies.
Origin of the Seven Bowls
Revelation 15:5 tells us, “After this I looked and in heaven the temple, that is, the tabernacle of the Testimony, was opened.” The word “tabernacle” is not in the ESV but is a better translation. John, with prophetic eyes, looks into the heavenly Holy of Holies. According to the Law of Moses in the Old Covenant, the Israelites set up a tabernacle, a tent, in concentric layers around the holy place and the most holy place, or the Holy of Holies. Only the high priest could enter that innermost space, and only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for his own sins and the sins of the people.
Solomon’s temple was a physical building that depicted the same idea with the Holy of Holies, but the heavenly temple is the reality. The tent and the building are shadows and types. They are gone, nowhere to be found; they have been destroyed. But John is able to able to gaze into the heavenly reality of the Holy of Holies with prophetic vision.
Tabernacle of the Testimony
Revelation 15 speaks of the tabernacle of the testimony, referring to the Ark of the Covenant, the golden box in which the stone tablets, on which God inscribed His laws with His own finger, were placed. It is on the basis of God’s holy law that these judgments flow, out of this tabernacle, out of the law of God that is perfect and holy. He demonstrates His commitment to His holy law, the Ten Commandments, which the human race has violated every day of its existence. “I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make any idols or worship any idols. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Do all your work in six days and rest on the seventh, for God made Heaven and Earth in six days and rested on the seventh. Honor your father and mother. You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
If we have any uncertainty about the spiritual nature of these commandments, how they apply to our hearts, the tenth commandment makes it plain. Coveting is something you do with your heart. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus extends that heart focus to the commandment about murder. Though we may never murder, we likely have been angry enough at times to want to kill. Even that puts us in danger of the fire of Hell. We may not physical commit adultery, but looking at another person lustfully is adultery in one’s heart. Jesus shows that none of us can survive the scrutiny of the Ten Commandments. After making this clear, He summarized all of the law in two great commandments. Matthew 22:37-39 says, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”
We cannot keep and have not kept the Ten Commandments or the two commandments. All of us have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
The Seven Holy Angels
The judgments in Revelation 16 flow from God’s commitment to that holy law, which we have violated. John gazes into the righteous, holy character of God and His commitment to His commandments for the human race. From this heavenly tabernacle of the testimony, this wrath will flow because of transgressions against His holy law.
Revelation 15:6 says, “Out of the temple came the seven angels with the seven plagues. They were dressed in clean, shining linen and wore golden sashes around their chests.” These angels are serving God, deputized to pour out on earth these seven last plagues. They are dressed in clean, shining linen with golden sashes around their chest as Jesus did in Revelation 1 — valuable attire symbolizing their perfect holiness and purity, enabling them to pour out the plagues to purify the earth in Revelation 16. They emerge from the tabernacle to bring the curses of the law of God on the violators of His Word.
The Living Creatures
Revelation 15:7 says, “Then one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls filled with the wrath of God, who lives for ever and ever.” In Revelation 4:7-8, the four living creatures are before the throne of God: “The first living creature was like a lion, the second was like an ox, the third had a face like a man, the fourth was like a flying eagle. Each of the four living creatures had six wings and was covered with eyes all around, even under his wings. Day and night they never stop saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.’”
These four living creatures are actual creatures up in Heaven. They represent physical creation, which has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth, under bondage to decay because of human sin, waiting to be liberated by the redemption of the children of God and resurrection, waiting for the New Heaven and the New Earth. They are groaning. It makes sense for these living creatures to hand over the bowls of judgment to the angels, like liquid wrath to be poured out on the earth.
300 million people died of smallpox in the 20th century, and perhaps over half a billion people have died from it overall, making it the worst plague in history. Because of Edward Jenner’s vaccination, little by little it was conquered to some degree. Now, the only place it exists is in two research laboratories, one in Russia and one in Atlanta, Georgia. Imagine being responsible for transporting this liquid death in a box.
Smallpox is nothing compared to this round of judgments in Revelation 16. It is hard to describe what we are about to see. The human race cannot long endure after the seven bowls are poured out — it will not be a third this time but the entire thing — the whole ocean, all the rivers. It is terrifying. These four living creatures give the seven angels the liquid death and wrath in these bowls.
The Smoke of God Fills the Temple
Revelation 15:8 says, “And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven angels were completed.” We have seen this before. When the tabernacle was finished, Exodus 40:34-35 says, “Then the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting because the cloud had settled upon it, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” Even His choicest servant could not enter in at that point. God alone was in that place.
When the temple was dedicated, 1 Kings 8:10-12 says, “When the priests withdrew from the Holy Place, the cloud filled the temple of the LORD. And the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the LORD filled his temple. Then Solomon said, ‘The LORD has said that he would dwell in a dark cloud.’”
God is unapproachable. 1 Timothy 6:15-16 says, “God will bring about in his own time — God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.” The smoke in Revelation 15 makes a cloud of unapproachable darkness. God is doing this on His own. He is using the angels and the four living creatures, but this is something that He alone has the right to do. He is unapproachable in His time of wrath; no one can approach Him or stop Him.
Isaiah 43:13 says, “No one can deliver out of my hand. When I act, who can reverse it?” Moses interceded for Israel in Exodus 32:12: “Turn from your fierce anger; relent and do not bring disaster on your people.” God heard Moses’ intercession, but in these last judgments, He will hear no petitions for mercy; the time of His wrath will have come, and the end will be near. Isaiah 14:27 says, “For the LORD Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him? His hand is stretched out, and who can turn it back?”
Flee to Christ NOW!!
First, our top priority is to the Gospel call. It is vital for us sinners to realize the danger that we are in apart from the redemption of Christ. We need to understand what Jesus is a Savior from. He saves us from the terror of the wrath of God. We need to flee to Christ now, while there is time. This is the day of salvation. In His first coming, His first advent, Jesus is presenting Himself as meek and mild and lowly and humble. He is gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
The picture of the Virgin with child and the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and laid in a manger is a picture of the mildness and meekness of Jesus. This is the time to come to Christ, the time to confess that we have violated God’s Ten Commandments. We are not under any deception about this; we know we have broken His commandments. We have not loved Him with all of our heart. We have not loved our neighbor as ourselves. Flee to Christ.
Get This Message Out While There Is Time
For Christians, this is our time. Not only this December Christmas time, but this day of salvation, this avenue of grace, is opened and we are its messengers. “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can anyone preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” [Romans 10:13-15]
That is our job. We get to bring the good news to lost people even this week. Be prayerful about what kind of sacrificial giving you should do to keep missionaries on the field through our Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. I have the formal privilege of presenting the names of every missionary who will be appointed by the IMB this year. It is a glorious rubber stamp. I love to say their names and say that my sub-committee recommends them to be appointed as missionaries. But it takes a lot of money to keep them on the field; it is expensive. They are in big cities, with big city costs, reaching hundreds of thousands of people who have never heard the name of Christ, so be sacrificial and give.
Finally, look forward to the celebration that we will have when we are finally walking on that sea of glass, celebrating with the Song of Moses and of the Lamb. We will give Him the victory and the praise and we should do that now as well. I love doing corporate worship with you. Let’s worship by the Spirit continually, the praise and the redemption that Jesus has worked for us.
Father, we thank you for the time that we have had to study your Word. Thank you for the things that we have learned. Lord, we know this is an incredible introduction to an outpouring of wrath we can scarcely imagine. Help us to understand it, help us to be ready to take it in. But knowing that it is coming, O Lord, help us to live holy and upright lives in this present corrupt age, and to warn people who have yet to come to Christ, to flee to Him while there is still time. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.