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John's Vision Warns Us of God's Judgment

Revelation 15-18

Jim Davis

God's will is being wrought in our world. More importantly God's will is being wrought in your life. No, it doesn't make any difference whether you are a Christian or not. God is busy saving the lost and judging the wicked. God continually works his will to protect his children, while exerting his will to bring his judgment to sinners. It doesn't matter which category you fall into, God's will is being wrought in your life, one way or another. Whether you make a decision to be a Christian or not, God is working his will in your life. The only choice we have is how we will allow God to work in our lives. Will we choose to obey so that we will fall under the protection of God as his children, or will we choose to disobey and fall under his judgment against sin?

Everything will be subjected to God's will, of course, it is in accordance with God's timing. There is an unalterable law that says a person will reap what they sow.

Galatians 6:6-10
Anyone who receives instruction in the word must share all good things with his instructor. Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. (NIV)

Paul makes it clear in these verses that those who do good will reap good and those who do evil will reap destruction. This isn't a law subject to the whims of man; it is God's unalterable law. Heaven works to this end to see that the harvest will be according to what we sow. We reap what we sow through the consequences of our actions.

From the very beginning God makes it plain that sin desires to master each of us. God told Cain: "If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must master it" (Genesis 4:7 NIV). Too often when harvest time comes we seek to blame others for the harvest we are reaping, rather than accept the responsibility ourselves. God held Cain responsible for mastering his own life.

God's Judgment of Evil

As you look back through history at the rise and fall of nations, can it be anything other than the judgment of God involved. How many television shows have you seen concerning the Aztec nation? It was a huge civilization, but it disappears from the face of the earth. We can't figure out why? Could it be the judgment of God?

The difficulty with our world today is that we do not see the long-range effects of sin.

Proverbs 10:29-30
The way of the LORD is a refuge for the righteous, but it is the ruin of those who do evil. The righteous will never be uprooted, but the wicked will not remain in the land. (NIV)

Proverbs 13:21
Misfortune pursues the sinner, but prosperity is the reward of the righteous. (NIV)

God judged Canaan for her sins and allowed them to be conquered by the Israelites.

Leviticus 18:24-28
"'Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants. But you must keep my decrees and my laws. The native-born and the aliens living among you must not do any of these detestable things, for all these things were done by the people who lived in the land before you, and the land became defiled. And if you defile the land, it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nations that were before you. (NIV)

This is a message that echoes throughout the Old Testament as a warning for us today. Samuel spoke to Saul saying, "And he sent you on a mission, saying, 'Go and completely destroy those wicked people, the Amalekites; make war on them until you have wiped them out.'" (1 Samuel 15:18 NIV)

Genesis 15:13-16
Then the LORD said to him, "Know for certain that your descendants will be strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years. But I will punish the nation they serve as slaves, and afterward they will come out with great possessions. You, however, will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a good old age. In the fourth generation your descendants will come back here, for the sin of the Amorites has not yet reached its full measure." (NIV)

Job 31:2-3
For what is man's lot from God above, his heritage from the Almighty on high? Is it not ruin for the wicked, disaster for those who do wrong? (NIV)

Proverbs 14:34
Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. (NIV)

The most terrible aspect of God's judgment is when he withdraws his protection and allows evil to overtake us.

Numbers 32:23
"But if you fail to do this, you will be sinning against the LORD; and you may be sure that your sin will find you out." (NIV)

God withdrew his protection from Israel to allow Assyria and Babylon to overtake his people. God allowed nations more wicked than his chosen nation to overtake them.

Revelation Reveals God's Judgment

We can rest assured that when Judgment Day arrives, God will have done all in his power to save as many as possible. God is working his will in our world in such a way to bring as many as possible to repentance as he blesses the good and punishes the wicked (2 Peter 3:9). However, God will not allow us to reap the consequences of our sin in full without seeking to bring us to repentance.

The visions of the book of Revelation were given to assure us of God's active ongoing presence in our world. The message was given to Christians in about A.D. 95, but it also assures us today of the certain triumph of Christ's cause over the forces of evil in every age.

The judgments revealed as the seven seals were opened and the seven trumpets were blown were for the purpose of bringing the world to repentance. The judgments were designed to bring about repentance. The judgments were only partial in that they touched a third part of what ever they touched. A third of the earth was burned up; a third of the sea turned into blood; a third of the rivers became bitter; and a third of the stars fell from the sky (8:6-13).

Revelation 9:20-21
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. (NIV)

Revelation 11:13
At that very hour there was a severe earthquake and a tenth of the city collapsed. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the survivors were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven. (NIV)

As John's vision assures the saints of their victory, he also reveals God's desire to bring the world to repentance through his judgments upon the wicked. John's Revelation leaves us with no doubt about how God will allow us to reap what we have sown. There are two major themes running through the book of Revelation: the protection of the saints and the temporal judgment of God upon the enemies of the saints. In chapter 6:9-11 the martyred saints were crying out for God to judge their enemies on earth.

Revelation 6:9-11
When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain because of the word of God and the testimony they had maintained. They called out in a loud voice, "How long, Sovereign Lord, holy and true, until you judge the inhabitants of the earth and avenge our blood?" Then each of them was given a white robe, and they were told to wait a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed. (NIV)

The message of Revelation is designed to reveal God's judgment upon earth for her sins. God asks the saints to be patience until "their fellow servants and brothers who were to be killed as they had been was completed" (6:11) Actually, God was asking them to be patient until his work was completed. Sometimes we need to be patient and wait upon God to work his will.

God's Judgment of Rome

In Revelation chapters 15-18 we see God's judgment upon the Roman Empire. In these chapters the wrath of God is completed as the bowls of God's wrath are poured out upon the earth. The first bowl of God's wrath reveals ugly and painful sores breaking out upon those with the mark of the beast as God's wrath was poured out upon the land. The second bowl of wrath was poured out upon the sea and every living thing in the sea died. The third bowl of God's wrath was poured out upon the rivers and springs and they flowed with blood.

An angel from heaven leaves us with no doubt as to why this was happening. God is judging the world for evil against the saints.

Revelation 16:5-7
Then I heard the angel in charge of the waters say: "You are just in these judgments, you who are and who were, the Holy One, because you have so judged; for they have shed the blood of your saints and prophets, and you have given them blood to drink as they deserve." And I heard the altar respond: "Yes, Lord God Almighty, true and just are your judgments." (NIV)

The fourth bowl of God's wrath is poured out upon the sun and the sun scorched the earth. The earth began to curse God and refused to repent. They knew that it was God who had control over the plagues but they refused to repent (16:8-9). This leaves no doubt that the wrath of God was designed to bring about repentance. However, evil reaches a stage where it can only get worse. Paul says, " . . . evil men and impostors will go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived" (2 Timothy 3:12-13). As the fifth bowl of God's wrath was poured out upon the throne of the beast the world was plunged into darkness. The evil was so great that the inhabitants of the earth gnawed their tongues and cursed God. They refused to repent of what they had done (16:10-11).

As the sixth bowl of God's wrath is poured out upon the Euphrates River the water was dried up. This prepared the way for the kings of the earth to invade Rome. The Euphrates served as a natural barrier to protect Rome from her enemies from the east, but now God removes her protection. The kings of the earth are led by demonic forces to gather in battle against Rome (16:12-16). The seventh bowl of God's wrath is poured out into the air and flashes of lightning, peals of thunders and a severe earthquake occurs. The city is split into three parts as God gives Rome the full cup filled with the wine of the fury of his wrath. Then huge hailstones fell a hundred pounds each fell upon the inhabitants and they cursed God (16:17-21).

In chapter 17 John is shown the punishment of Rome from another vantage point. He sees a prostitute sitting upon many waters, as the kings of the earth are intoxicated with her adulteries. She is intoxicated with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus. The waters upon which the prostitute sits represent peoples, multitudes and nations (17:1-2, 6, 15). The woman portrayed as a prostitute is described as the great city that rules over the kings of the earth--this could be none other than Rome (17:18).

The amazing aspect of the wrath of God upon Rome was that it was designed to bring repentance or destruction, but the choice was up to the inhabitants of the earth. The progressive nature of God's judgment was designed to get their attention before total destruction came upon them. However, as God's judgment progressed from bad to worse they chose to curse God and die. God's judgment against Rome was accomplished as he allowed the demonic beast's destructive power to rule. I am reminded of Paul's words in Romans.

Romans 1:28-32
Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them. (NIV)

The greatest danger our world has to fear is that God will turn us over to live according to our own self-destructive ways until his judgment is complete. In this judgment God is not personally doing evil things to us, he only withdraws his protection so that we gradually reap the natural harvest of our own evil ways. This is the kind of judgment John sees for Rome. Rome's destruction will be complete as God allows Rome to reap the consequences of her own judgment.

Revelation 18:4-8
Then I heard another voice from heaven say: "Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes. Give back to her as she has given; pay her back double for what she has done. Mix her a double portion from her own cup. Give her as much torture and grief as the glory and luxury she gave herself. In her heart she boasts, 'I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn.' Therefore in one day her plagues will overtake her: death, mourning and famine. She will be consumed by fire, for mighty is the Lord God who judges her. (NIV)

As I look at God's judgment of Rome it portrays for me God's ongoing work in our world to bring judgment upon the forces of evil. This is something we must never lose sight of for we must seek God's protection. We are encouraged to come out of an evil world as we follow Christ. We are reminded that we too will suffer the judgment of God if we fail to do so. The voice says, "Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes."

Our greatest danger today is to deceive ourselves into thinking that these visions only have a historical significance, or to deceive ourselves into thinking they only have a futuristic significance when Christ comes. These extreme views will deceive us into thinking that they have no significance for the present. We may end up boasting like Rome: "In her heart she boasts, 'I sit as queen; I am not a widow, and I will never mourn." (18:7 NIV) We may think that this can never happen to us.

It is no accident that we are encouraged to stay awake. "Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed" (16:15). To stay awake will call for a mind of wisdom that understands that God continues his work in our present day world.

Our only hope and protection is to become a member of God's unshakable spiritual kingdom (Hebrews 12:28). When Daniel interpreted Nebuchadnezzar's dream (Daniel 2:24-47), he saw the God of heaven setting up an unshakable kingdom during the days of the Roman Empire. In Revelation God's unshakable kingdom is portrayed as those who have the seal of God upon their lives. They are nothing more or nothing less than the children of God who make up his church. They are victorious over those who have the mark of the beast.

Revelation 15:1-4
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. 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." (NIV)


The only way to escape the ongoing judgment of God in an evil world is to become a member of Christ church, which is his kingdom.

Matthew 16:18-19
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (NIV)

An excerpt of Charles Colson's book, Against the Night reveals the seriousness of the problem for today. Colson says we are entering a new Dark Ages brought on by relativism, radical individualism and materialism. People have grown so accustomed to the dark; they don't even realize the lights are out. He reminds readers of the fall of Rome when that empire lost discipline, respect and obedience. Rome couldn't resist the attacking barbarians. Today's barbarians wear pinstripes instead of animal skins and wield briefcases rather than spears. Today's culture offers the church opportunities to "serve as outposts of truth, decency, and civilization in the darkening culture around us. For even though the church itself is shot through with an individualism that cripples its witness...it is the one social institution that is still capable of challenging culture." To fill this mission, the church must begin with repentance--the process by which we see ourselves, day by day, as we really are: sinful, needy, dependent people. ("Living in the new Dark Ages" by Charles Colson with Ellen Santilli Vaughn. Christianity Today, Oct 20, 1989. Pages 30- 33.)

Our only hope is to come to repentance so that we can begin to reap the benefits that God's protection provides. Do you have the seal of God upon your life? God's seal is the only means of protection.


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