Read Revelation 15
Focus on verse 1
Wrath is an interesting word. We don’t often use it to as a descriptor of our emotional state, though it may well be a fitting description of a significant sector of the “Not so United States of America”. Personally I prefer the term anger, as it seems more controllable…perhaps a little safer than wrath. Wrath seems to imply an uncontrollable rage. When someone is filled with wrath – someone is going to get hurt and/or something is going to get broken. This is that human state where rage and adrenaline combine, forming an explosive and dangerous situation.
If the wrath of a human is dangerous, the wrath of God is infinitely more deadly. In today’s reading John describes another sign that he sees in heaven. He calls it “great and amazing” and adds that it is the last sign for with this one the wrath of God against those who have chosen to consistently oppose and rebel against Him is finally expended.
Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing, seven angels with seven plagues, which are the last, for with them the wrath of God is finished.(v. 1)
As these plagues are described it becomes evident that this is not a happy time for any living creatures who dwell upon the earth at the time. The seven angels are given seven bowls which apparently contain the wrath of God. The intent is that these bowls of wrath are to be poured out upon the earth one after another until God’s wrath is fully spent.
It is at times like this that one finds it difficult to remember that the God whose wrath is being poured out upon the earth in this vision, is the same God who loved the world so much that He sent His only Son to live and die in the place of humanity in order to purchase us back from the destructive clutches of Satan. It is hard for us to imagine how God, about whom John writes “God is love” in 1 John 4:8 can be the same God whom He now describes as “pouring out His wrath” upon His enemies.
To understand this, it is helpful to remember that justice and love can not exist apart from each other. Love without justice is not true love, and justice without love is not true justice. The people that will find themselves on the receiving end of God’s wrath are only those who have repeatedly and consistently rejected God’s appeal to accept His offer of grace, so in this God is just. It is not unlike the child whom the parent has warned with loving clarity what the consequences of rebellious disobedience will be. If the child persists in the rebellious path, the most loving thing the parent can do is allow the child to reap the consequences of his or her choice.
In the same way God gives us a choice. He has clearly and lovingly invited us to accept His grace and to walk in obedience and submission to Him. He has also described what the consequences of our disobedience will be. It would be unloving and out of character for God to not allow those who choose to rebel against Him to deny them of their freedom to choose. So as always, we have a choice. God gives us the freedom to choose whether or not we want to bear His wrath or avoid it.