The grapes of wrath and the fear of the Lord were more potent in the mind of the 20th century. Now that we are in pursuit of global niceness wrath and fear are left for fundamentalists and extremists. It is hard for people in the soft, consumer comfort of the west to understand the place of wrath unless they experience grief and pain. However, pain itself has become such a loathed aspect of life that rather than endure it we deny it or medicate it away. Entertainment, drugs and sports can take our minds away from the pain and the darkness that resides in the heart of the human being.
However, under the veneer of our shallow existence is a wellspring of pain, sin, and vengeance. We live with the suspicion that, left to ourselves, something might not be right. However, when someone acts toward us with selfishness, vindictiveness, or indifference righteous wrath against them wells up inside us. This righteousness is part of the image of God. It demands justice, but we forget that we are marked with the same internal blemish. Eventually God will crush us all in brutal, horrific justice. The justice of it will be revealed to others as they see fully revealed the self-interest of our hearts.
There is one way out of the shallowness of entertaining ourselves to death. There is one way out of the darkness that consumes us. It is to receive mercy. Having received mercy from God and acknowledging the darkness, we allow God to work like a surgeon operating painfully to remove the evil that still clings to us. The surgery of spiritual growth is a frustrating and painful affair. However, it is also joyous release. As God removes destructive desires and cruel intentions we are free to be conduits of God’s grace to others. A community that extends God’s grace to each other is heaven on earth. A community that does not feel it needs grace because it is already good and just will burn forever in the realisation that God’s goodness is deadly for those who do not know him.
6 Then I saw another angel flying in midair, and he had the eternal gospel to proclaim to those who live on the earth—to every nation, tribe, language and people. 7He said in a loud voice, “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heavens, the earth, the sea and the springs of water.”
8 A second angel followed and said, “‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great,’[a]which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries.”
9 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, 10 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 sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb. 11 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.” 12This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.
13Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write this: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”
“Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.”
Harvesting the Earth and Trampling the Winepress
14 I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man[b] with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15 Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, “Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.” 16So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.
17 Another angel came out of the temple in heaven, and he too had a sharp sickle. 18 Still another angel, who had charge of the fire, came from the altar and called in a loud voice to him who had the sharp sickle, “Take your sharp sickle and gather the clusters of grapes from the earth’s vine, because its grapes are ripe.” 19 The angel swung his sickle on the earth, gathered its grapes and threw them into the great winepress of God’s wrath. 20 They were trampled in the winepress outside the city, and blood flowed out of the press, rising as high as the horses’ bridles for a distance of 1,600 stadia.
- How is verse 7 good news?
- How can something good be horrific?
- Describe te horrors that come from God’s judgement?
- Why do people today want God to come back and make everything good?
- What would need to be eliminated in today’s world for absolute perfection to occur?
- How are you preparing the world for God’s goodness?
Going Deeper/Personal Note
I drove back from Milwaukee and was tired when I turned right in a right hand turn lane near to home. Those in the car told me that I had come to a complete stop for a considerable time. However, I crossed the white line that marks the right hand turn lane. The lights on a camera went off an I was caught not making a perfect right hand turn on red. The camera does not know mercy or grace. The camera only knows justice. I had obeyed the spirit of the law and stopped but not the letter of the law.
I feel so entitled to mercy and am so used to grace that I was angry. My values are so soft that I wanted forgiveness for crossing the line as my right. It seems petty to fine me $100 for crossing a line and stopping with my tires on the other side. I do not want the law to run its course, I want mercy. My anger shows me how far from goodness I am. These cameras are notoious for thei righteous issuing of fines.
I know that th cameras are reviewed by humans and that nothing may come from this, but the stringent requirements of the law are represented by the camera. Without Jesus we are all under God’s law. We are all expected to stop at every stop line. God would. We are all expected to never to do 1 m.ph. over the speed limit. God wouldn’t break a single law. God is the law. Living in the presence of such perfection is impossible. We can submit and die or we can live in an angry hell, which is the second death. Those who submit are raised into a new life where everything received is undeserved and they are grateful. They know to pass on to other humans kindness and compassion.
This is the gospel.
How do you feel about it?