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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!

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

Psalm 7:1-2, 17

Lord my God, in you do I take refuge;
    save me from all my pursuers and deliver me,
lest like a lion they tear my soul apart,
    rending it in pieces, with none to deliver.

17 I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness,
    and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.

Psalm 37:1-7

Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
    be not envious of wrongdoers!
For they will soon fade like the grass
    and wither like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord, and do good;
    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.
Delight yourself in the Lord,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord;
    trust in him, and he will act.
He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
    and your justice as the noonday.

Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;
    fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
    over the man who carries out evil devices!

Psalm 67

May God be gracious to us and bless us
    and make his face to shine upon us, Selah
that your way may be known on earth,
    your saving power among all nations.
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
    let all the peoples praise you!

Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,
    for you judge the peoples with equity
    and guide the nations upon earth. Selah
Let the peoples praise you, O God;
    let all the peoples praise you!

The earth has yielded its increase;
    God, our God, shall bless us.
God shall bless us;
    let all the ends of the earth fear him!

Psalm 97:12

Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous,
    and give thanks to his holy name!

Psalm 127

Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved sleep.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord,
    the fruit of the womb a reward.
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior
    are the children of one’s youth.
Blessed is the man
    who fills his quiver with them!
He shall not be put to shame
    when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.

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

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.

And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. 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!
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.”

After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests. And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished. Revelation 15:1-8 [ESV]

Lahaina Banyan Tree | Honolulu, Hawaii | April 2022

The list of adjectives in this hymn point us toward a majestic, holy, righteous, mighty, and in the context of this chapter, vengeful God. We don’t tend toward that picture of God these days. We’ve learned to get along with the ways of the world. We are seldom in direct danger of attack or threat of bodily harm or grave injustice. Once in a while we may be poked by the wokeness of the world. Occasionally we may want to lash out at those who insult our God. But I don’t know anyone who is ready to take up arms or make a “here I stand” confession in our enemy’s direct line of fire.

To be sure we must take our stand. And there are plenty of challenges to faith and faithfulness. Most of the time, however, these are handled on a low-key basis. We simply refuse to watch certain programs, read certain books or visit certain establishments. Even I seldom take up a direct argument to someone’s off-hand comment or challenge. I tend toward the soft answer that turns away wrath approach (Proverbs 15:1).

But we don’t live under the same degree of persecution and grave physical danger as those in John’s day did. Christians were persecuted horrifically. Some died. Others, like John, were exiled. Still others saw their loved-ones subjected to terrible injustice. It was a constant real and present danger. With that awareness we can better understand the yearning for vengeance. We can see why they called out for justice and the ultimate and uncontested reign of the holy, just, true, and righteous God.

While our yearning may not be as urgent, it is certainly well-founded when we desire God’s ultimate rule and reign in our lives. When he reigns we are able to rise above the tumult of this fallen world. When he rules we are able to find joy even in our sufferings. When his justice and righteousness prevails, schisms, divisions, and scandals are healed.

All that happens when we embrace God’s justice, truth, holiness and righteousness by faith. We look to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, redeemed us, forgave us, and justified us before God. For his sake we are declared righteous, just, holy, and pure. Whenever we express that in our interactions with others, we reflect the true nature of God, and give evidence of the grace and truth of his ways.

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

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.

And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. 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!
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.”

After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests. And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished. Revelation 15:1-8 [ESV]

Hawaii Seashore | Oahu, Hawaii | April 2022

There is a very powerful and enlightening scene in the movie Titanic that left a lasting impression on me. It also gave new meaning to the idea expressed in Revelation 21:1, “…and the sea was no more.” In the movie there is a priest reading from this passage as the ship lists further and further toward its ultimate doom. As the ship sinks the priest reads, “…and the sea was no more.” Think of it! When you’re about to drown in a cold and violent sea, to imagine a place where there is no threatening waves or roaring sea has to be a beautiful and peaceful thought.

Second to that thought is the idea of a sea of glass. And such placid views are the stuff of paintings and peaceful meditation. Imagine sitting beside a glassy sea and contemplating the awesome nature of God and his glorious works, dreaming of a world at peace with nothing to harm or even threatening harm us. This is a vision of peace. Except this sea of glass is mingled with fire. This is a troubling image once again. Fire is often used to speak of judgment. John the Baptist said that Jesus would baptize the people with the Holy Spirit and fire. The idea there was of judgment.

The sea is tamed. It can harm no more. It is as though the sea has been judged. Its ways are severely limited. Not only are its boundaries set (remember Job 38:8-11?). Fire rages on its surface. The cataclysmic nature of this judgment scene is clear. This is not just a moment interrupted. This is an ending of all endings.

That’s not good news for those who trouble God’s people. It’s not good news for those who make much of others’ misery. It is not good news for those who delight in chaos, destruction, war, and tumult. But it is good news for those who look forward to the new heaven and new earth. It is good news for those who seek Jesus’ help. It is good news for those who yearn for true peace. It is good news for those who wish to leave behind all sin, corruption, brokenness, pain, threat, distress, fear, and maham in search of God’s perfect peace.

The days leading up to the Great Last Day will be tumultuous. Many will faint for fear. And those apart from God will not have smooth sailing by any means. But the redeemed of God recognize their need for a Savior, and realize that Savior is Jesus Christ who has come to redeem us. We will find perfect peace in him. I look forward to that day. I think it’s getting close.

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

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.

And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. 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!
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.”

After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests. And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished. Revelation 15:1-8 [ESV]

Green Hills | Oahu, Hawaii | April 2022

Perhaps you remember the old TV show, That’s Incredible! Somehow the show’s producers found story after story of incredible events. A treacherously dangerous but successful rescue attempt. A one-of-a-kind discovery of rare and extremely valuable treasure hidden in the most incredibly unexpected place. We’d watch an episode and say to each other, “That’s incredible!” And it was. I’m sure the producers told the story and edited the footage to make things appear even more amazing than they would otherwise appear. But the show was well-named.

Stack that up against this observation by author and pastor Max Lucado: I’ve never been surprised by God’s judgment, but I’m still stunned by His grace. Then look again at the opening lines of his hymn of praise: “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty!” God’s deeds are indeed great. And when we think of the greatness of his deeds we tend to think of miraculous things like crossing the Red Sea on dry ground, falling the walls of Jericho with a trumpet’s blast, or seeing Jesus walk on water. Those are truly great things. 

But God’s most awesome work was done by the frailty of his Son (thanks Michael Card). You want amazing, take a look at Undercover Boss and then multiply it exponentially. Talk about a great work, consider just what Jesus accomplished when he died for the sins of the world. Consider how he reconciled the world to himself, not counting man’s trespasses against him. Consider how God has also passed on that ministry of reconciliation to people like you and me! That’s truly great and amazing.

What God said from the foundation of time has been vindicated. It is all as he said it would be. He promised a Savior and delivered his Son for us all. He promised eternal life and opened the gates of salvation to all who would believe. He said the devil would not prevail, and he triumphed over him on the cross and showed how complete that victory was by his resurrection from the dead. And on the Great Last Day we will stand in awe at the full implication of all these things.

There are times when the apparent winning ways of the world overwhelm. There are times when we are amazed at man’s accomplishments. There are times when we celebrate great human accomplishments as though they are the ultimate expressions of power and glory. There are times when we laud the athlete, idolize the celebrity, or put our hopes on a political leader. None of these are truly great and amazing. That’s God’s realm. His praise will go on for all time, and so will our rightful and proper amazement at his stunning grace and glorious majesty.

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David Bahn-Reflections Podcast

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.

And I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire—and also those who had conquered the beast and its image and the number of its name, standing beside the sea of glass with harps of God in their hands. 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!
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.”

After this I looked, and the sanctuary of the tent of witness in heaven was opened, and out of the sanctuary came the seven angels with the seven plagues, clothed in pure, bright linen, with golden sashes around their chests. And one of the four living creatures gave to the seven angels seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God who lives forever and ever, and the sanctuary was filled with smoke from the glory of God and from his power, and no one could enter the sanctuary until the seven plagues of the seven angels were finished. Revelation 15:1-8 [ESV]

Cleat | USS Arizona Memorial, Pearl Harbor, HI \ April 2022

The common idea of the wrath of God has to do with people being blasted by an angry God who desires to destroy, hurt, and otherwise wreak havoc on people who do not behave properly. The wrath of God, by that definition, would be appropriate for us all – except perhaps people like Billy Graham, Mother Teresa, and maybe the Apostle John (the disciple Jesus loved). But even John, the beloved disciple had his issues. He and his brother James were called sons of thunder because of their haste to call down fire from heaven on some Samaritans who refused hospitality to Jesus and his disciples.

Jesus had a very different approach to this which actually gets at the realities of God’s wrath. He merely went on to another city. He had a message to deliver and a mission to accomplish. He would take the fullness of God’s wrath upon himself so that we do not have to bear it.

One online resource speaks of God’s wrath this way:

God’s wrath is not a reckless rage, an uncontrollable anger, a senseless fury, or an unjust vengeance. The wrath of God is a precise and controlled response to the belittling of his holiness. Everyone who perishes under the wrath of God in eternity will not be because God lost his temper with them and mistreated them. (G3 Ministries)

The author of a Concordia Theological Monthly journal article refuses to disconnect a discussion of God’s wrath from his grace. It says that the founding fathers of the Lutheran church recognized that

the wrath of God was a great reality about which they had not merely read in books, but the withering blasts of which they had felt in their own hearts. Likewise the grace of God was to them not a mere titulus, but a boon which had come to them like the dawn of a bright morning after a night of harrowing gloom and destructive storms.

Yet there is a judgment day. There will be an accounting. Those who wish to find comfort in Jesus’ mercy and grace will experience that boon of deliverance. Those who refuse his grace will be left totally to their own devices. It will not be pretty for them. There will be weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth.

While we wait, God shows his wrath by taking his hands off those who do not believe. And in their unbelief they go farther and farther down the road to perdition (cf. Romans 1:18-32). But God’s hands-off approach is not entirely wrathful. For he is also waiting patiently so that some will repent and not perish (2 Peter 3:9). This is his greatest desire. This is his will: our eternal salvation and perfect joy. And until the end of all time there is hope. But that time will one day come to an end. His wrath will end. And his own will enjoy heavenly bliss forever.