The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen Revelation 22:17-21 [ESV]

Crowned by it’s Own Bloom | Mercer Gardens | May 2022

We have been saved. Redeemed. Set apart. And yet we are still being saved, day by day, as God works in us for his good pleasure. And one day we will be saved, on the Great Last Day. This last saving is the subject of this chapter of Revelation. The whole book recounts how we have been saved through the suffering and death of Jesus. That had happened about 70 years before John wrote down this “Revelation of Jesus Christ.”

People were still being saved through reading these words and prophecies. Many of them are frightening and confusing to us 2000 years later. But to those under dire persecution these words were encouraging, hope-giving, life-saving words. God was using these words to save them in the midst of their struggles and temptations. This is the purpose of this book. 

They were being saved by being pointed back to Jesus’ victory and forward to the ultimate culmination and consummation of Jesus’ work of redemption. They were being pointed toward the day when God would wipe every tear from the eyes of his beloved children. They were urged to hope for Jesus’ return to end Satan’s rampage once and for all. They were called to believe that one day sin, sickness, suffering, and hardship would be ended. 

We have much in common with the people of John’s day, and to whom he wrote this book. We have been saved by Jesus’ suffering, death, and resurrection from the grave. We are being saved by the Holy Spirit’s continued work in us. And one day we will be perfectly saved in the glory of the life of the world to come.

This is the last saving. It will be a very good day for us all. Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! May his grace ever be with us all. Amen.

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen Revelation 22:17-21 [ESV]

Wild Bergamot | Mercer Arboretum | May 2022

How long will be the line in heaven? The line of people asking Jesus about some nuance of the faith, some difficult-to-understand Bible passage, or some missing piece of information. Why did you put the tree of knowledge of good and evil in the garden? How was it that the walls of Jericho fell at the blast of the trumpet? Was it just a timely earthquake? What about the dinosaurs? Where do they fit in? Maybe you’ll be in that line with your own question. It might be personal: Why did you let me go through that dark time in my life? Why didn’t I get that job? Why? How? When? Where were you when? The list goes on and on. 

Sometimes we are more than tempted to read between the lines of the Bible, imagining how Judas felt and whether he had a last-millisecond change of heart, or what Jesus wrote on the ground when the woman caught in adultery was brought to him. It can be very frustrating to have to give up on knowing all the answers. 

The biggest question, called the Crux Theologorum (the theologian’s cross), is simply this: Why are some saved and others not? The Lutheran answer is quite unsatisfying to those with inquiring minds: I don’t know. Check out this thorough explanation of the reason we say that if you do have an inquiring mind.

While the I don’t know answer may well be unsatisfying to those with inquiring minds, it is well-aligned with the warnings in this passage. Don’t add to God’s word. Don’t take away from God’s word. And there’s good cause for this warning. 

We’re not God. We don’t have the wherewithal to speak things into existence. We cannot know all there is to know. We don’t see the whole panorama of history. We don’t have a full grasp of even our own sins or motives. We cannot take the place of God and try to improve on what he has revealed. Nor are we well served by taking out things that God has said. There are only two religions in the world: that which God has revealed in Scripture, and that which man imagines. God’s religion is the far better choice.

There is yet a more salutary reason for this warning. For it requires that we live by faith. And while we truly know precious little about God, the little we know is precious, and it invites faith. We are saved by faith. We are not saved by knowledge. We are not saved by understanding all mysteries. We are not saved by anything we may do, know, or understand.

We’re saved by God’s grace through faith. And filling in the blanks with our own imaginations is not a help to faith. Being able to say, “I don’t know,” is an act of faith, not an admission of theological ineptitude. 

Don’t add to God’s word. Don’t take away from God’s word. Believe God’s word. Believe in God’s Word-made-flesh, Jesus Christ, full of grace and truth. And be saved. And at peace in the knowledge of what he has revealed: He loves us so much!

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen Revelation 22:17-21 [ESV]

Yellow Celebrations

Diane and I presented Being an Obedient Follower to the staff of St. John’s Early Childhood Center. We were well received and very encouraged by the participation of all who were there. Part of that teaching had to do with the idea that everyone looks like a sheep from the front and like a shepherd from behind. In other words, we are all being led, and we all lead others. Others are following us. Being an obedient follower means that we are also leading others to be obedient followers of Jesus. 

Take a look at the opening words of this passage. The Holy Spirit is inviting people to come and receive the water of life. So is the Bride of Christ (the Church). And so are the ones who hear this invitation. They, too, are inviting others to come and take the water of life without price. 

I’ve actually heard people say that they don’t want to witness because they’re afraid they’ll say the wrong thing. Truth is, not saying anything is the wrong thing to say. Failing to give witness to Jesus’ love, faithfulness, grace, and salvation is not saying the right thing. It’s like the old FedEx commercial: FedEx is so easy that even a CEO can do it. Witnessing to Jesus’ grace and truth is like one beggar telling another where to find bread. Even the one first hearing the invitation can share it with others. 

Most of us are more thirsty than we realize. We’re too often sated by things that are not healthy or truly satisfying. We think we’re full because we stuff our souls with spiritual junk food, empty gratifications, or fleeting pleasures. But God offers true refreshment, the water of life. And this water is priceless, and freely offered.

“All the prophets of the Bible, all the apostles of the Bible, all the threatenings of the Bible, all the promises of the Bible, gather themselves up, and focus themselves into this one burning ray, ‘Come to Jesus. Come, and take the water of life freely.’” (Spurgeon)

Have you heard this invitation? Heed it. Invite others to join you as you come to Jesus and receive his free gift of the water of life. 

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.

18 I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19 and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.

20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!

21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen Revelation 22:17-21 [ESV]

One of my favorite movies is The Hunt For Red October. Based on the Tom Clancy novel by the same name, Sean Connery plays a Russian naval officer who defects to the United States, during the cold war, with his super-secret submarine (Red October). As the plot plays out there is need to verify his intentions to his US Navy counterpart. He is asked to respond with a ping from the sonar of his sub. When he calls for a ping, he is questioned. This was an unusual move. But he makes it clear: “One ping, Mr. [I don’t remember the man’s name]. One ping only.” By that his intentions to defect are communicated to the US Navy captain on the nearby sub. And the story continues to unfold. 

Here we have a final word – a single ping, if you will – at the end of the whole book. “Amen.” While some of the ancient Greek manuscripts omit the “Ἀμήν” (Amen), many modern translations include it. And it is found in other ancient Greek manuscripts. The word means truly. It’s the exclamation point of all that John has seen through this revelation of Jesus Christ to him. “Yes, yes, it shall be so,” as Martin Luther puts it. All of the foregoing truths, prophecies, pronouncements, praises, and proclamations are in fact most certainly true.

We have covered the hymns of praise in the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John. From hymns of praise to the Lamb who was slain and now reigns, to praise to God for his righteous retribution, to praise for the salvation given to the faithful, one chorus after another has been lifted up in praise to God. The book of Revelation is a celebration of the ultimate victory of God, Jesus, the power of the Holy Spirit to inspire faith, and a vindication of righteousness and faith. 

In this last chapter there comes an invitation, a blessing, and a verification of all that goes before. The Ἀμήν is the verification – the One Ping Only – of Jesus’ words, promises, and warnings. 

  • Will there be a Last Day? Ἀμήν
  • Will Jesus reign forever on his throne? Ἀμήν
  • Will those who hear and heed his invitation to receive the water of life enjoy that life-giving refreshment eternally? Ἀμήν
  • Will those who have done such terrible things to God’s people through the ages be brought to justice? Ἀμήν
  • Will those who acknowledge their sins and repent of them, acknowledge Jesus’ true and proper reign over all things be saved? Ἀμήν
  • Will every tear be wiped away in the life of the world to come? Ἀμήν
  • Will every sickness, sin, and all of Satan’s reign be brought to naught? Ἀμήν
  • Will there be joy forever with all those gathered before the Lamb of God for he has taken away the sin of the world? Ἀμήν
  • Will our faith in Jesus be vindicated and will we be deeply thankful for his steadfast love and faithfulness? Ἀμήν
  • Will the grace of our Lord be with you? Ἀμήν

Truly. It shall be so!

Join me in praying these psalms on this Lord’s Day. He loves us so much!

Psalm 14:1-3

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”
    They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds;
    there is none who does good.

The Lord looks down from heaven on the children of man,
    to see if there are any who understand,
    who seek after God.

They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt;
    there is none who does good,
    not even one.

Psalm 44:23-26

Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord?
    Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!
24 Why do you hide your face?
    Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust;
    our belly clings to the ground.
26 Rise up; come to our help!
    Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!

Psalm 74:12-17

Yet God my King is from of old,
    working salvation in the midst of the earth.
13 You divided the sea by your might;
    you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters.
14 You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
    you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
15 You split open springs and brooks;
    you dried up ever-flowing streams.
16 Yours is the day, yours also the night;
    you have established the heavenly lights and the sun.
17 You have fixed all the boundaries of the earth;
    you have made summer and winter.

Psalm 104:24-34

Lord, how manifold are your works!
    In wisdom have you made them all;
    the earth is full of your creatures.
25 Here is the sea, great and wide,
    which teems with creatures innumerable,
    living things both small and great.
26 There go the ships,
    and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.

27 These all look to you,
    to give them their food in due season.
28 When you give it to them, they gather it up;
    when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
29 When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
    when you take away their breath, they die
    and return to their dust.
30 When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
    and you renew the face of the ground.

31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever;
    may the Lord rejoice in his works,
32 who looks on the earth and it trembles,
    who touches the mountains and they smoke!
33 I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
    I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
34 May my meditation be pleasing to him,
    for I rejoice in the Lord.

Psalm 134

Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,
    who stand by night in the house of the Lord!
Lift up your hands to the holy place
    and bless the Lord!

May the Lord bless you from Zion,
    he who made heaven and earth!

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®)
Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission.
All rights reserved. 

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
    for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
    who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

Once more they cried out,

“Hallelujah!
The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And from the throne came a voice saying,

“Praise our God,
    all you his servants,
you who fear him,
    small and great.”

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Revelation 19:1-10 [ESV]

Seascape | Oahu, Hawaii | April 2022

We occasionally receive “SAVE THE DATE” cards and quasi-invitations. A wedding is upcoming. An anniversary celebration is in the offing. A dinner party is being planned. Recently, however, after receiving the SAVE THE DATE card, we didn’t receive the follow-up invitation. Turns out that this dinner party invitation was sent by someone other than the one who sent the SAVE THE DATE card, and things got very mixed up in the process. We even got a phone call from the hostess, “Are you coming?” Yes. Did you receive the invitation?” No. That can happen. Well, it actually did happen. And we were glad for the phone call and personal invitation. 

On another occasion the follow-up invitation arrived well enough. But it got stuck behind some other pieces of mail or desk detritus, and we never RSVP-ed to the invitation. Again, a phone call rescued us from missing the wedding and reception following. We told the kind woman who called that we had it on our calendar but didn’t actually receive the invitation. OOPS! But all’s well that ends well. And the wedding was delightful and the reception pleasant enough. 

You may not realize that invitations to attend weddings or receptions are not high on my wishlist. In fact when a professor at the seminary told us that he hated weddings and would prefer a funeral any day, I was offended…until I did my first wedding. And then a funeral. Oh my! People are ready to listen to the word of God at a funeral. People are ready to get to the punch bowl and wedding cake at a wedding. Thankfully that isn’t always true, I hasten to add. But it is too often more true than I’d like it to be. 

This wedding invitation – the wedding feast of the Lamb of God – is one no one would want to miss. Two simple reasons for this:

  • (1) It is the wedding of the King of the Universe. He’s been quiet, humbly-hidden, and our most lasting image of the Lamb of God is of him on the throne of the cross. But this will be dramatically different. He will make a glorious appearance. The feast will be far better than any feast we have ever experienced. Choice wine. Fine meat. A full and glorious spread.

On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples
    a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine,
    of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.
And he will swallow up on this mountain
    the covering that is cast over all peoples,
    the veil that is spread over all nations.
    He will swallow up death forever;
and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces,
    and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth,
    for the Lord has spoken.
It will be said on that day,
    “Behold, this is our God; we have waited for him, that he might save us.
    This is the Lord; we have waited for him;
    let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” – Isaiah 25:4-6

  • (2) We will be with all the redeemed of God and every impediment to the richest and most blessed relationships will be utterly gone. Uncle Eddie will be polite and respectful. Aunt Edna will be gracious and understanding. You will be celebrated. I will be content. We will all be at perfect peace. We’ll all be stunned by the grace of God who has invited us to the feast and provided it to us at such a great cost: the death of the Lamb of God…who now reigns in fullness of grace and glory.

Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb. These are the true words of God. You don’t want to miss this party! Neither do I. 

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
    for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
    who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

Once more they cried out,

“Hallelujah!
The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And from the throne came a voice saying,

“Praise our God,
    all you his servants,
you who fear him,
    small and great.”

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Revelation 19:1-10 [ESV]

Lotus Ginger | Mercer Botanical Gardens | May 2022

I know better. But I wish it were not so. Christians suffer. Dedicated Christ-followers faithful pray-ers, committed Christians all have been subjected to trouble, torture, and even death because of their faith. It’s happened throughout the centuries. Whether by the hands of Nero, Diocletian, Stalin, or many unnamed persecutors, honorable, honest, godly, gracious, and innocent people have been subjected to insult, persecution, and death. I wish it were not so.

I don’t think I should have to endure such troubles. My life is fairly safe and secure. I don’t worry that someone is going to burst into our home and demand that I deny my Savior. Even when we’ve traveled to Russia, Kenya, or Tanzania, I’ve not feared for my life. Perhaps I’ve been naive. Maybe there have been enemies of the gospel lurking, seeking an opportunity to discredit the gospel or bring me harm. But I’ve seldom felt threatened because of my faith.

One occasion, however, we did feel the danger. We were in China visiting churches, pastors, evangelists, and missionaries (though they asked us not to use the “M” word). We were constantly accompanied (or should I say surveilled?) by members of the Communist Party’s Religious Affairs Bureau. They schmoozed us, told us that China is an open country with great religious freedom. But we learned otherwise. When we thought we had distanced ourselves from them, they caught up with us and directed us to a hotel of their choosing – rather than the hotel we had thought we would stay in.

At 2:00 AM, a knock came on our hotel room door. I got up and went to the door and discovered two very young and attractively-dressed women. They were laughing, and were obviously offering us (Diane and me?!?) their services. We believe they were sent by the RAB to discredit us, revealing our moral complicity. I told them, “Go away!” And, thankfully they did.

Such is the tip of an iceberg of compromise and duplicity to which we are tempted daily. And Satan wants to leverage that any way he can.

Here, however, we have a picture of the end of such deceivers, persecutors, tormentors, and tempters. They suffer utter doom. They are completely vanquished. And the hosts of heaven rejoice in their demise. They realize how destructive those are who attack followers of Jesus. They realize how much Christians have suffered for the faith. And now that it is ended, they rejoice in God’s vindication. All the pain, tears, troubles, and disappointments have actually happened. There is no guarantee of a painless life for Jesus’ followers. In fact, the opposite is true: “If they persecuted me, they will persecute you,” Jesus says (John 15:20).

But all persecution – as real, horrific, distressing, and terrible as it may be – will come to an end. The world, the devil, and our flesh may attack. But God’s people will be saved. And we will join all the redeemed in praising the One who has saved us. Hallelujah!

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
    for his judgments are true and just;
for he has judged the great prostitute
    who corrupted the earth with her immorality,
and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”

Once more they cried out,

“Hallelujah!
The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”

And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!” And from the throne came a voice saying,

“Praise our God,
    all you his servants,
you who fear him,
    small and great.”

Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out,

“Hallelujah!
For the Lord our God
    the Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and exult
    and give him the glory,
for the marriage of the Lamb has come,
    and his Bride has made herself ready;
it was granted her to clothe herself
    with fine linen, bright and pure”—

for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints.

And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.” 10 Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brothers who hold to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God.” For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Revelation 19:1-10 [ESV]

Cana Lily | Mercer Botanical Garden | May 2022

Chapter 18 of Revelation is a rehearsal of the fall of Babylon, symbolizing the complete demise of Satan’s kingdom and powers. It reads almost like one is gloating at Babylon’s downfall. And make no mistake, its downfall is horrific and cataclysmic. Complete and undeniable. Total and irrefutable. One after another judgment is pronounced in poetic form. It is a scathing judgment against all the powers, forces, conspirators, antagonists, and people who do not repent. They are utterly doomed. It is sad, and a difficult chapter for me to read.

Then come the hymns of praise to God in this chapter. Hallelujah! Again and again rings out the refrain, “Hallelujah!” Five times in these few verses goes up the shout, “Hallelujah!” And to make certain we get it, in verse 5 we have, “Praise our God!” There’s just a whole lot of praising going on. Paeans of praise  have replaced laments of Judgment. Joy, delight, gladness, thanksgiving, honor, and glory have replaced gloom, despair, judgment, and damnation.

I have a theory about the meaning of the universe, and it has to do with God’s grace. In the end there will be a celebration of God’s grace. Paul writes of it in Ephesians 1:6-7 if you want to look it up. God’s justice and his righteous retribution is certainly a relief. It has been the focus of the previous two chapters or more. And even here, in the opening verses of this chapter, the justice of God is celebrated together with the vanquishing of all evil foes. But the final word is a word of praise to God because of his grace.

God has granted his bride to wear the fine white linen which symbolizes the righteous deeds of the saints. We wear these good works only by God’s grace. By his grace our sins have been washed away. Only our righteous deeds remain (cf. Matthew 25 where there is no mention of the sin and failures of the elect which are nevertheless common to all). By his grace we are permitted to put them on.

By God’s grace these righteous deeds are already prepared for us (Ephesians 2:10). By God’s grace there is no more sin that clings, enslaves, weighs us down, and robs our joy. For all this we too join the cry, “Hallelujah! Praise our God!” Amen.

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say,

“Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was,
    for you brought these judgments.
For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,
    and you have given them blood to drink.
It is what they deserve!”

And I heard the altar saying,

“Yes, Lord God the Almighty,
    true and just are your judgments!”

The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire.  They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.

10 The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish 11 and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds. Revelation 16:4-11 [ESV]

Purple Flower-2 | Mercer Botanical Gardens | May 2022

Imagine walking into work one day and seeing the HR person walking around the offices with a stack of pink slips. Who are those for? You hope one of them does not have your name on it!

Or it’s the end of the year and your company has done very well. You’ve done your share, but you’re not certain anyone has noticed your work. An all-company meeting is called, and as you walk in you see some very interesting boxes on the table at the front of the meeting room. They look like they might contain the “good things come in small packages” items. You wonder who are those for, as you hope one of them is for you…a Rolex watch, perhaps? Diamond earrings?

John is given a vision of bowls of God’s judgment being poured out here in Revelation 16. The impact of those bowls’ contents is horrifically cataclysmic. Not good. Gnashing of teeth bad. Something no one wants to experience. Belittled by modern sophisticates, caricatured by people who can not imagine such judgment, and denied even by some people who call themselves Christians, hell and God’s judgment is no caricature. It is a terrible and fearful experience of judgment and doom.

God takes no delight in sending people there. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 33:11). Jesus himself speaks of hell as being prepared for Satan and his angels (Matthew 25:41). God’s word is clear: He wants all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4). But this chapter is a stark reminder of our need for salvation. There will come a day of reckoning. There will be a judgment on those who do not repent, do not honor God, do grave harm to God’s people, and set aside justice for their own pleasure and purposes.

God’s judgments are just. And as we reflect on his holiness and purity, his justice and righteousness, it is good to realize that there will be a day of judgment. That day will be cataclysmically horrific. But we take comfort in the end in two things: Jesus has satisfied God’s justice for all who believe. And God’s greater delight is to forgive and save. Save us, O God! Have mercy and save us! Amen.

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

The third angel poured out his bowl into the rivers and the springs of water, and they became blood. And I heard the angel in charge of the waters say,

“Just are you, O Holy One, who is and who was,
    for you brought these judgments.
For they have shed the blood of saints and prophets,
    and you have given them blood to drink.
It is what they deserve!”

And I heard the altar saying,

“Yes, Lord God the Almighty,
    true and just are your judgments!”

The fourth angel poured out his bowl on the sun, and it was allowed to scorch people with fire. They were scorched by the fierce heat, and they cursed the name of God who had power over these plagues. They did not repent and give him glory.

10 The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish 11 and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds. Revelation 16:4-11 [ESV]

Purple Beauty | Mercer Botanic Gardens | May 2022

These two hymns remind me of the imprecatory psalms, though they are not as extreme as some of the imprecatory psalms.

An imprecation is a curse that invokes misfortune upon someone. Imprecatory psalms are those in which the author imprecates; that is, he calls down calamity, destruction, and God’s anger and judgment on his enemies. This type of psalm is found throughout the book. The major imprecatory psalms are Psalms 5, 10, 17, 35, 58, 5969707983109129137, and 140 (GotQuestions.com).

Some of the imprecations of those psalms are brutal. All of them are expressions of moral high ground and complete confidence of being in the right, and their enemies in the wrong. I’m sure there are those who have such a strong sense of moral superiority. And you might second-guess such self-righteousness.

But there can be no question about this judgment. These hymns of Revelation 16 are in response to a complete end to all evil. That is what this chapter celebrates. It celebrates in unabashed joy the demise of those who had persecuted and killed believers and so dishonored God. It expresses unimaginable relief at the end of torment, trouble, and tumult. This is the unleashing of God’s judgment on all who hate him and his ways.

That may seem harsh. It is no soft and gentle moment. But it is a vindication for all who put their trust in God’s ways and his salvation. This hymn makes the point that God’s judgements are completely just. That’s the point of the second of these two hymns of praise. “Yes, Lord God the Almighty, true and just are your judgments!” Amen. 

But let us never forget that the judgment of God was unleashed 2000 years ago…on his Son. Jesus bore the sin of the world. And no one need endure the kinds of eternal doom that is described here. God’s will, in fact, is quite the opposite. His will is that all would repent and believe. That is made clear even in the condemnation: People gnawed their tongues in anguish and cursed the God of heaven for their pain and sores. They did not repent of their deeds. 

Jesus’ first sermon was, “Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand.” This a daily practice for the believer. In the face of such grave punishment, certainly we will heed his call!