O Lord God, sovereign and true, we thank You that You will not allow sin and rebellion to remain forever. We praise You because You are the great Judge of all the earth, and You will always do right. We praise You, too, because we know that we ourselves deserve to fall under Your judgment. Yet because of Jesus You have promised to save us and bring us safely home to be with You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Read Revelation 15-16
Revelation 15 is one of the most solemn and dramatic chapters in the entire Bible. Here, finally, we’ve come to the end, to the full measure of intensity of God’s judgment. The chapter opens with a vision of a sea of glass mingled with fire. Have you ever seen a sea mixed with fire? I have—once. It was the only time I’ve ever looked westward over the ocean, and I saw the sun set. It’s an extraordinary sight. As the sun sinks beyond the horizon, the sea ignites with light and color so bright you can barely look at it at all. Then over a half-hour or so, the colors darken and everything fades into night. Do you see what this vision is communicating? It’s a picture of a sunset. Everything is coming to a close; the sun is setting on human history.
There’s probably another meaning, too. In the Bible, the sea often represents evil—a place of darkness and chaos. Indeed, Satan himself is associated throughout Scripture with the sea. But now, there’s no chaos. The sea is like glass, completely subdued and even mixed with the fire of judgment. Not only that, but the people of God are standing “on” the sea, singing praises to God. This is an image of the ultimate defeat of their enemy.
In Revelation 15:5–8, a hush falls over heaven. The doors of the temple swing open, and seven angels dressed in priestly garb march out from the throne room of God. They are given seven bowls full of judgment, and smoke fills the temple. Then, for the first time since the creation, heaven falls silent. There’s no singing of angels, no crowns clinking to the ground at the feet of the Lamb, no “Holy, holy, holy!” from the four living creatures. There is nothing. In fact, no one is in the temple at all. At this moment of final, irreversible judgment, God is alone.
In Revelation 16, the seven bowls of judgment are poured out. What they describe is very similar to the trumpet-judgments. That’s because, as we’ve seen, John’s visions in Revelation actually cover the same time period. Each vision starts over and describes again the time between Jesus’s resurrection and His second coming, each one in succession adding another layer of meaning and intensity to the picture. In other words, the visions are describing the time in which we live, but pressing forward toward the Last Day.
3 And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, ‘Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations!4 Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All nations will come and worship you, for your righteous acts have been revealed.‘
- Every word in these chapters is calculated to drive into our minds the fact that God is unassailably sovereign. The angels come from His throne room; the wrath filling the bowls is His wrath. If judgment will be executed, it is God and God alone who will do it. Even the angel in 16:5–6 says to Him, “You brought these judgments.” Look, too, at 16:7. It may seem strange at first that the altar in the temple speaks, but only until you realize that it’s actually the voice of the believers under the altar from Revelation 6. Then they had prayed, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before You will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” Now they recognize that God is answering their prayer, and they cry out, “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are Your judgments!”
- We, as Christians, can take great comfort in knowing God is sovereign. When crisis comes in your life, what is your heart’s first response? Is it panic? May the response of your heart be something different—perhaps recognition of God’s sovereignty and prayer. Pray the prayer of the believers in Revelation 15. History advances at your Savior’s command, and recognizing that and living in its light gives comfort and solidity to our lives. Knowing that the last word—in everything—belongs to our God helps us stand firm.
TIMES OF CRISIS
Watch this roundtable on how God’s sovereignty practically helps in the midst of pain and perplexity. (9:13)
Copyright © 2016 The Gospel Coalition, Inc. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org. Used by permission
- Revelation 15 contains a wonderful picture of Christ’s people, victorious and singing praises. But how does 15:2 say they got there? It is by “conquering.” Read again the seven letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2–3. According to Jesus in those letters, exactly what does this “conquering” entail?
- Spend some time in prayer simply marveling and praising God for His power and sovereignty. Pray large prayers that He would act soon to judge evil, put an end to rebellion, and bring history to the end He has purposed for it.
Why pray if God is in complete sovereign control? Watch Leonce Crump’s answer. (1:22)
By Leonce Crump. Copyright © 2016 The Gospel Coalition, Inc. https://www.thegospelcoalition.org. Used by permission